Gary Cooper Was In The Movie, Too?

Sometimes a situation comes into your life that makes you realize how much you have taken something for granted. It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop and smell the roses, tiptoe through the tulips, mingle among the magnolias, and carefully caress the cactus flowers. It’s the kind of thing that makes a man thankful to be alive. You guessed it. I’m talking about Western movies.

I am currently taking a class in American Cinema. The professor has a list of movies and you select movies from the list to watch and write about them. For the purpose of the class, I have to analyze the film direction, storyline, and cinematography. I have to use such terms as iris shot, parallel action, and mise-en-scène. In spite of such under-the-microscope analyses, I am still able to actually watch and enjoy some of the films. Given that the focus is currently on Western films, I get to enjoy it even more.

It is hard for me to succinctly explain what it is about Westerns that appeals to me. Maybe it’s because it’s the best way to see the good guys versus the bad guys where the good guys (almost) always win. Maybe it’s the underlying themes of medieval chivalry that weave through the characters such as The Lone Ranger. Then again, I also loved the character or Rooster Cogburn in True Grit who had a crust as thick as Texas toast. Maybe it’s because I was named after a Western movie. Apparently, my Mom and Dad liked the movie Shane hence my name. I am quite happy with that since my Dad also likes The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Today, I had the pleasure of watching High Noon. This is one the the great ones and I had never seen it before. Gary Cooper plays the local marshall. The movie starts with the marshall getting married to a very lovely lady played by none other than Grace Kelly. The newly wedded couple is getting ready to leave for their honeymoon which coincides with the marshall’s retirement. These plans are completely derailed when everyone receives news that a man the marshall had convicted has been pardoned and is due to arrive back in town on the noon train.

Now I understand the “codes of the West” and a sense of duty and all of that. But, c’mon Marshall Kane. You are in your early 50’s and you have just married a 21 year old Grace Kelly. I don’t mean to be indelicate but I respectfully suggest you have bigger (and prettier) fish to fry. If that isn’t enough, everywhere you walk Tex Ritter can be heard singing “Do Not Forsake Me. O, My Darling”.  To top it all off, there isn’t one single solitary man who is willing to go to the train depot with you. All those years you have been protecting every man, woman, and child in this town and this is the thanks you get on your wedding day and retirement party. I may be selfish, Marshall. Nevertheless, I’d be tempting to grab my gorgeous wife (reminder: it’s GRACE KELLY) and leave town with mistletoe fastened to the seat of my pants.

I won’t give away everything because this is a movie worth watching. I will tell you that the marshall’s newly wedded wife proved to be quite a woman. I will also tell you that the marshall put his wife on a coach and road with her out of town as the credits roll. Why did he do this? Is it because it is such a stereotypical Western ending. I don’t think so. I think he finally realized that 1 minute past high noon was half past time to get on with his honeymoon. After all, IT WAS GRACE KELLY!

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