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BCB After Dark: High Noon at midnight

The night spot for night owls, early-risers and Cubs fans abroad asks if you’re going to a game in person this year.

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Chicago White Sox v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the nightclub for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Bring your own beverage. So glad you can make it. We’ll stick with one slogan eventually.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and in to the afternoon.

Another disappointing game today from the North Siders. Why can’t Johnny hit?

Last time I asked you which Cubs reliever after Craig Kimbrel you wanted pitching in a game-on-the-line situation and 45% of you said you wanted Andrew Chafin. Alec Mills was second with 20% and the 13% of those who put Brandon Workman in third probably wish they could change their vote after Wednesday afternoon’s game.

Tonight, I’ve spent a lot of time re-watching and researching the Hollywood classic High Noon. Honestly, I spent so much time on that, I’ve actually got two days worth of material. But that also means that I didn’t really have the time to give a classic jazz album the attention it deserves. So while I do have a jazz track to present tonight, I don’t have much of an accompanying essay. So just listen and enjoy.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.

So if the unfamiliarity of the music is a problem for you getting into jazz, I present pianist Brad Mehldau doing a version of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android. [Video]

While I certainly listened to and enjoyed jazz before then, I don’t think I really began to understand jazz until I started listening to performers like Mehldau doing covers of the alternative rock songs that I grew up on. Or at least as much as I do understand jazz. The cool thing about jazz music is that I’m always learning.

OK, so the frustrated film historian in me has something to say about High Noon, which is usually ranked among the top 30 or 40 films ever made. I have too much to say about it to put it all in one piece, so I’m putting the background on the film in tonight’s installment and I’ll put my thoughts in Monday night/Tuesday morning’s After Dark.

Unfortunately, the only scenes from the film I found on YouTube were from the climax, and I’m not going to ruin the picture for people who haven’t seen it by showing the end. But they do have the original movie trailer from 1952, so here’s that. [Video]

High Noon is a film that subverted many of the traditional tropes of the Hollywood Western while at the same time re-affirming other mainstream ideas about heroism and American masculinity in the mid-20th Century. That’s what makes it a classic.

One could write a book just about High Noon and if fact, people have (Much of this background is from Glenn Frankel’s book linked there.) Stanley Kramer, who later went on to produce and/or direct such socially-conscious big hits as The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgement at Nuremburg and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, had been running his own independent film studio that had a string of low-budget, critically-acclaimed and mostly financially-successful movies in the early fifties. After years of turning down offers to move to a major studio, Kramer finally agreed to join Columbia Pictures in 1951. However, his studio still owed United Artists a picture so he green lighted a script by Carl Foreman that became High Noon. Austrian immigrant Fred Zinnemann was named the director.

Neither Foreman nor Zinnemann had ever worked on a Western before. Kramer’s tiny production studio was shutting down, so the budget was tiny even by their previous standards. That meant that the film would be in black-and-white and there would be no beautiful shots of the Utah desert, as most westerns of the time had. But that was OK by Foreman and Zinnemann, who had a more character-driven story in mind, based in part on a short story entitled The Tin Star. Zinnemann would make a virtue out of the lack of money by shooting in a grainy, documentary style. He also shot in a lot of interiors to give the film a claustrophobic feel. On top of that, he storyboarded out the entire film before hand, something that was unusual in 1952 but common today. The idea was to shot the entire 80 minute film in 28 days.

Foreman’s script is the real star of the picture, however. Originally, Foreman saw the story as a parable against isolationism, or the idea that America could just abandon the world stage after World War II. If you pay attention, you can still see the bare bones of that moral in the film. But a change in America affected Foreman’s life in a way that would then change the focus of the film.

As a young, struggling writer back in the late-1930s, Foreman had joined the Communist Party. By 1943, he had grown disillusioned with the party and saw it to be nothing but a mouthpiece for Moscow, so he quit. He still had friends who were party members, however.

Flash forward about eight years and Foreman is much more successful. Also, someone named Foreman as a former communist before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). While working on the script for High Noon, Foreman got a subpoena to testify about his communist past. Foreman’s instinct was to fight against HUAC and in fact, that was the Hollywood studios instinct as well when Congress first turned their hearings on the motion picture industry in 1947. By 1951, however, all of the major studios and most of the minor ones had capitulated to the Red Scare. When Foreman looked for people to speak on his behalf, he was met with excuses or he was outright ignored.

So that became the plot of High Noon. The hero, Marshal Will Kane, learns that Frank Miller, a man he’s arrested and sent to hang, had been pardoned by the governor and was coming back for revenge. Kane was set to leave town with his new bride when he gets this news, but he knows that someone has to stand up to Miller or the town will be ruined. Miller and his gang are only four men. A posse of just a dozen local townsmen would easily put the outlaws back behind bars. So Kane goes about asking the townsfolk to help stop Miller.

Kane’s deputy refuses, angry that he’s been passed over as the new marshal, who hasn’t arrived yet. Others refuse because they liked Miller, just as some in Hollywood supported the blacklist. Others don’t want to risk their neck, figuring that it will all blow over if Kane just left town. Again, just like the blacklist. The few townsfolk willing to help Kane back out when they realize that the posse is going to be outnumbered by the outlaws. So Kane is forced to stand up to four killers all by himself.

In this story, Foreman makes his plight Kane’s plight. Like Kane, Foreman sees himself as being sacrificed by Hollywood so as not to make any trouble for themselves.

Kramer found an unknown 21-year-old Grace Kelly at an off-Broadway play for Kane’s bride, the female lead. Kelly was everything that his small-budget studio was looking for: She was young, pretty, she could act and most importantly, she would work for cheap. Casting Kane was a bigger problem. They asked nearly every hot young actor in Hollywood. Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and William Holden all said no, mostly because of the meager wages that the film was offering. But Gary Cooper had gotten ahold of the script and he loved it. In fact, he wanted to play it very badly and was willing to accept whatever Kramer could pay.

Cooper had been one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the thirties and early-1940s (Remember Pride of the Yankees?) but by 1952, his star was fading. He had turned fifty, he looked sixty, and he felt all he was being offered were crappy parts that were beneath his stature. He certainly picked up on the “blacklist” allegory in the script. Cooper was a conservative Republican and was a member of a Hollywood anti-communist organization. But he opposed the blacklist and when Foreman told him straight to his face that he was no longer a communist, Cooper said that was good enough for him.

Neither Kramer nor Zinnemann wanted Cooper for the film. For one, he was too old-time Hollywood for their hip, young independent studio. Second, he was 30 years older than Grace Kelly and he looked even older. But they both had to admit that he was still “box office” and they couldn’t find anyone else they wanted that would do the film for the wages they were offering. Cooper had the part.

Foreman testified before HUAC while Zinnemann was shooting the picture. In order to get a pass from the committee, you had to do three things. You had to state you were not currently a communist. You had to denounce the party. And you had to name names of other people who you knew were communists, in order to prove that you had reformed.

Foreman had no problem swearing that he was not a communist, but he would not denounce his old friends. The committee labeled him an “uncooperative witness” which meant that Hollywood blacklisted him. Kramer tried to fire Foreman and get his name off the movie, but the way the contracts were written, that proved impossible. (Foreman did lose executive producer credit.) Kramer and Foreman came to a financial settlement that left Foreman’s name on the film and he left for England before High Noon even finished shooting.

When the film came out, it was very controversial because of its subject matter and because of Foreman’s blacklist. There were protest marches. But it was also a huge hit and even General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican nominee for president, came out and said that he loved the picture. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including the only Oscar of Cooper’s career.

Foreman was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay for High Noon, but he didn’t win. He would later go on to co-write Bridge on the River Kwai, which came out in 1957. The studios would not permit either Foreman or his co-writer and fellow blacklisted writer Michael Wilson to have their name on the film, so the screenwriting credit was given to Pierre Boulle, who wrote the book the movie was based on. Boulle did not speak English. Boulle was awarded an Oscar for “his” screenplay.

The Academy reversed this mistake and awarded Foreman an Oscar in 1984, shortly after he died.

On Monday, I’ll actually talk about my take on the film.

OK, welcome back to all those who are saying they didn’t major in film studies for a reason. (Hey, I didn’t either!) Tonight’s question is whether or not you think baseball is back for you. Fans are back in the stands at baseball games although other than with the Rangers’ and Opening Day, they’ve all been at a reduced capacity.

So my question tonight is are you going to be one of those fans in the stands? The US is making rapid progress on the vaccination front, but there are still many, many people getting sick from COVOD-19 and some are even dying, although fewer than during the worst days of 2020. Do you feel safe enough now to go out to a ballgame in 2021?

I’m only asking about professional baseball because I think we should put your kid’s Little League game or the local high school in a separate category. So I’m just talking about the majors, the organized minors or the new independent leagues. If you want to count the summer wooden bat league that you’re planning on going to in July, I’ll allow it.


Are you planning to attend a professional baseball game in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Yes, and I already have!
    (5 votes)
  • 19%
    Yes, but I’ll wait until later in the year.
    (9 votes)
  • 10%
    I’m unsure
    (5 votes)
  • 28%
    No, I don’t think it’s the right time yet
    (13 votes)
  • 30%
    No, but I usually don’t go to games in person.
    (14 votes)
46 votes total Vote Now

That’s enough from me. I’ll see you again Monday night/Tuesday morning. Let’s get some hits before then.