September 23, 2018

I learned some interesting backstory on "High Noon" this week, and I see some parallels to today's times.

The screenwriter was Carl Foreman (who wrote some other amazing work, like "Bridge on the River Kwai"), who was blacklisted in Hollywood for refusing to name names and actually left the country for England before the filming for "High Noon" wrapped, knowing that it was unlikely he'd be able to work in the US again. Ironically, Foreman was one of the reasons for the Red Scare in Hollywood. He and other writers wanted to unionize at the studios for livable wages (imagine that) and Harry Warner, in frustration, asked, "What are you guys, Communists?" To which, Foreman admitted that he was. The frustration that Communist Party members thought they should be able to unionize for wages drove Warner and the other studio heads to root out those nasty Communist influences.

But he already had Foreman, however, dead to rights on it. Foreman tried to convince his fellow writer friends that if they stood together that they could overpower the greedy and tyrannical studio heads. But no one wanted to stand with him. Maybe they wouldn't name names, but they didn't want to put targets on their back. Foreman decided to write of his feeling of isolation as the anti-Western, "High Noon". Gone were the noble frontiersman. They were now weak and cowardly. When Marshal Will Kane asks them to stand with him to protect the town from the outlaw gang due to arrive to inflict terror and violence, they refuse. And Kane is no hero, ready to face the enemy alone. He's conflicted. He's tired. And his loyalties are more towards his new bride than to the town. Sound familiar?

Director Stanley Kramer actually wanted to have Foreman's name removed from the movie, because the growing Red Scare was tainting the movie by association. He had offered the starring role to John Wayne, who refused to do it, because he hated everything about the movie, from the writer on down. He thought everything about the movie was anti-American. No heroics, no sweeping great American spirit, and a terrible image of the marshal stomping on his badge. Lawmen didn't do that! That wasn't the America West John Wayne wanted a part of.

Gary Cooper, however, LOVED the movie and eagerly accepted it. Kramer suggested that it might be better for Cooper's ongoing career (keep in mind, Cooper had already been in the business for 30 years by this time) if he wasn't associated with a known Communist, renewing his offer to remove Foreman's name. Bless his heart, Cooper threatened to walk if that happened, and Foreman's name stayed. Cooper thought it was real, and a more authentic Western experience than the glossy Hollywood version. The characters were fully developed (I defy you to find a more feminist character than Helen Ramirez that decade) and had emotional lives. And the political allusions weren't lost on him.

"High Noon" did not do particularly well in the box office, undoubtedly due to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper's interference. But it was critically acclaimed. And it was nominated for seven Oscars (including one for Foreman for screenwriting). Cooper was nominated for Best Actor, and asked his good friend John Wayne to accept the award if--obviously a long shot--he won.

He won. And then he got John Wayne, who hated the film for its un-American symbolism and lack of heroics to say this:

Just like all the other conservatives in Hollywood, Wayne was a big phony.

But he didn't let it go. He teamed with director Howard Hawks to make "Rio Bravo" seven years later as a direct response to everything he perceived as wrong about "High Noon". To make Wayne look more imposing, the sets were built at 7/8th scale. Even the town drunk summoned up enough bravery to take on the outlaws. His buddy Cooper visited him on the set, and was later quoted as saying, that the film was "so phony, nobody believes in it." It received no Oscar nominations.

And that, my friends, is the difference between liberal and conservative viewpoints. One is full of shades of gray and empathy for complex motivations. The other is full of glossy symbols without a lot of authenticity behind it.

ABC's "This Week" — Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Panel: Matthew Dowd and Cokie Roberts of ABC; Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times; former Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.; and Patrick Gaspard, former Obama White House political affairs director.

NBC's "Meet the Press" —Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Marvin Kalb, author of “Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism and the Threat to American Democracy.” Panel: Helene Cooper of The New York Times; Jonah Goldberg of The Los Angeles Times and National Review; Eliana Johnson of Politico; and MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

CBS' "Face the Nation" — Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. Anthony Salvanto, director of CBS News elections and surveys; Ed O’Keefe. Panel: Dan Balz and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Reihan Salam of National Review.

CNN's "State of the Union" — Haley; Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Panel: Michael Caputo, former campaign director, Donald J. Trump for President; former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich.; Amanda Carpenter; and Karine Jean-Pierre, senior adviser at

CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" — Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City (2002-2013); Manal al-Sharif, Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist.

CNN's "Reliable Sources" — SCOTUS Panel: Jill Abramson, co-author "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas"; Charlotte Alter of Time; Rachel Sklar, writer and founder of; and Charles Blow of The New York Times. Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine; David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun; and Olivier Knox of SiriusXM and president of the White House Correspondents Association.

"Fox News Sunday" — Pompeo; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Panel: Juan Williams and Gillian Turner of Fox News; Jason Miller, former Trump for President senior communications adviser; and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post and author of “Fear: Trump in the White House."

So what's catching your eye this morning?

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