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Publisher's Summary

It's one of the most revered movies of Hollywood's golden era. Starring screen legend Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in her first significant film role, High Noon was shot on a lean budget over just 32 days but achieved instant box-office and critical success. It won four Academy Awards in 1953, including a best actor win for Cooper. And it became a cultural touchstone, often cited by politicians as a favourite film, celebrating moral fortitude.

Yet what has been often overlooked is that High Noon was made during the height of the Hollywood blacklist, a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal. In the middle of the film shoot, screenwriter Carl Foreman was forced to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his former membership in the Communist Party. Refusing to name names, he was eventually blacklisted and fled the United States. (His coauthored screenplay for another classic, The Bridge on the River Kwai, went uncredited in 1957.) Examined in light of Foreman's testimony, High Noon's emphasis on courage and loyalty takes on deeper meaning and importance.

In this book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel tells the story of the making of a great American Western, exploring how Carl Foreman's concept of High Noon evolved from idea to first draft to final script, taking on allegorical weight. Both the classic film and its turbulent political times emerge newly illuminated.

©2017 Bloomsbury US (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 03-16-17

The Blacklist

The award winning western movie has been considered a morality play or a masterpiece of the psychological western. Frankel tells the story of the conflict intertwined with screenwriter Carl Foreman who was under fire for not “playing ball” with the McCarthy committee and later blacklisted, and director Fred Zimmermann. Frankel also goes into depth about the acrimonious split with producer (and owner of United Artists) Stanley Kramer and Foreman. Frankel tells of the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the industry politics that made the blacklist possible and its effect on the making of the movie “High Noon”. Frankel provides a most interesting background history of the innerworkings and politics of the movie industry particularly during the change over from silent to talking movies. The author paints a devastating picture of a powerful force crumbling under oppression. Kramer also hints that it was not only communism the committee was targeting but it was riddled with anti-Semitism.

Frankel makes extensive parallels of then and now particularly when he lays the blame at the feet of the press for their willingness to print the phony or exaggerated allegations of public officials and friendly witnesses without holding them up to scrutiny or challenging the assumptions. The author claims this gave Senator McCarthy a veneer of legitimacy. He then goes on to demonstrate how this effected Hollywood and the making of this movie.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. Frankel combed through the vast amount of testimony, depositions, and correspondence to document his findings. The author also describes the decades long battle for credit in the movie resulting from the effects of the McCarthy committee. This book is made more interesting considering today’s political activities.

The book is about fourteen and half hours long. Allan Robertson is a new narrator for me. He does a good job narrating the book.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Outstanding!

The book was well-paced, interweaving the primary stories of Carl Foreman and Gary Cooper as well as many others involved in and subjecting to the blacklisting. My interest was kept from beginning to end. Much has been written about this period in our history but setting it against the back drop of "High Noon" made the subject more engaging. Franker does an excellent job in delving into Cooper and Foreman's backgrounds, careers and personalities so that the reader can better understand their actions and motivation. Excellent narration. Normally I only listen while driving but I couldn't wait to finish the book and listened to it constantly for a couple of days.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Compelling story, well told

What made the experience of listening to High Noon the most enjoyable?

It gave me a new perspective on a film that I've seen several times, perhaps lazily, not appreciating the full context or nuance of the time.

What was one of the most memorable moments of High Noon?

The book has several different elements, the origin stories of Cooper and Foreman, the specter of HUAC, the blacklist, the tenuous personal and professional relationships across political lines. But yet, one of the more entertaining chapters detailed the almost Rashomon-like accounts of writer Foreman, producer Kramer, director Zinnemann and editor Williams over which of them was the true genius who saved High Noon from obscurity.

Which scene was your favorite?

The above stated versions of each man taking credit for the film's success. And more generally, the detailing of the aftermath of choices made by significant players in dealing with HUAC... the ostracization of those who named names, and the blacklist, exile, and loss of credit for those who didn't.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

A bit of disappointment, but certainly not in the book. Only in the sense that we haven't seemed to have learned a lot in this country about what honor, integrity, or patriotism really mean.

Any additional comments?

I was intrigued by the topic, not exactly sure what to expect. But I'm glad I picked it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Carole T.
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 03-15-17

Heros and Cowards

This is a difficult book to classify. It is not really a book about the making of a movie - nor is it primarily about the politics of the McCarthy era. Instead, Glenn Frankel's account serves as a study in contrasts between courage and cowardice, between loyalty and self-service, between genuine political concern for the country and hysterical use of power for its own sake.

"High Noon" remains an ultimate example of a movie loaded with American values. Will Kane (as played by Gary Cooper) represents honor, bravery, persistence, and a high-minded sense of duty and personal responsibility in a highly dangerous situation. Criticized by his wife, abandoned by the townspeople he has protected, and encouraged to flee for his life, this lone hero faces the enemy without much chance of survival. No wonder the movie remains a classic.

Frankel has framed the script of this story within a framework of the goings on in Hollywood in the early 1950's when it was conceived and produced. We learn that many of the major talents behind this "all-American" tale were actually people of Eastern European, often Jewish backgrounds, some of whom were at the time or would be later targets of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. The characters revealed are simply humans torn between self-defense and self respect. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they shine. Which of us can judge them?

I learned a lot from this book. Some of it was devastating - the Committee members were frequently viscous in their treatment of Hollywood people and utterly uncaring about finding the truth or about the consequences for individuals, families and communities. Some of it was reassuring - thank goodness we can still view Gary Cooper as a hero both on screen and off!

In our age of divisive politics, we are discovering that this sort of history can repeat itself. Fear of the "other", anger, spite, jealousy and protection of power for power's sake are dangers we still face. "High Noon" is always rushing towards us. I recommend this book - for its entertainment value as well as for its lessons.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great listen

I was very surprised what an easy listen this turned out to be. I knew some about the blacklist but this really showed me a lot more. Unfortunately this book mirrors a lot of what this country is going through right now. Another book that covers the same topic is Spartacus by Kirk Douglas another great listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not a simpler time.

What did you love best about High Noon?

Unfolding of what the entertainment world was. As complicated, and strange as it is today, with strange rules and clear winners and losers, a great story well told.

What did you like best about this story?

Pulling the narrative of High Noon in with the Blacklist was brilliant.

Which scene was your favorite?

All of the details, but big fan of Michael Wilson, he makes an odd footnote.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

How to say help while being entertained.

Any additional comments?

Could have been a clunker, man it shined.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Page turner for the ears

Extremely interesting to anyone who loves movies. Shameful time in our history highlighted. Highly recommend

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Carl
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
  • 06-26-17

Worth 2 credits, Maybe more

Would you consider the audio edition of High Noon to be better than the print version?

Probably

Who was your favorite character and why?

Gary Cooper's character

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Great book but a bit long for one sitting.

Any additional comments?

How nice it'd be if all books were so enjoyable and informative.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great book about classic movie and more

loved seeing how this classic movie was made, and learning more about the infamous blacklist.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Pretty good story, with way too much exposition.

Gary Cooper seems like an actor who deserves a good bio. Combining this work with a story of the creation of the "iconic" (by far the most overused word in the English language today; so abused that it is truly meaningless by now) movie High Noon, along with the story of the Hollywood blacklist and the McCarthy era witch-hunts: this blend of historical information appears to have enough natural interest to support a full-length novel. However, the book could use some cutting. There is way too much detail about any topic that the author covers. The titillating story of Cooper's sexual conquests, the "ice queen" Grace Kelly's alleged nymphomania, Stanley Kramer's monomania about every little detail in his self-created empire: these details plus much more tend to weigh down the book so that it reads more like pure history than like an interesting story about the people and the settings and the work that they do. Making movies is not a romantic enterprise, as we know. The stars hide in their trailers and come out only to do their scenes over and over in order to satisfy their many masters: writers, directors, producers, investors, and so forth. It must be drudgery, but of course the hero worship must make up for the repetition. The December-April relationship between Coop and Kelly is so obvious on screen that it is just not credible. He is about fifty-five and she is nineteen or so. When you look at the film, the age difference between them stands out like a sore thumb. BTW, you can watch a fairly long clip of High Noon on YouTube, and if you do that you will find, IMHO, that the movie does not age well. It is very old, and it's filled with cliches of Westerns. Likewise, the score, by the famously lauded Dmitri Tiomkin, is so loud that it is harshly invasive. Plus, Tiomkin steals from himself so much that you get thoroughly sick of the first few bars of Please don't forsake me oh my darling, or whatever the lyrics are. I mean, he repeats this musical phrase so many times, with absolutely no connection whatsoever with what is happening in the plot at the moment: I got to the point at which I wanted to mute the damned thing over and over. It adds nothing to the drama. Just play it louder, must be what Tiomkin thought. Not me. The improbably ludicrous setup at the climax of the film is more fodder for hero worship in the absence of reason. A man of Cooper's age shoots down four much younger men (all right, three; I won't spoil that part of the plot any further): this situation is so unlikely that one almost laughs. And of course during the fight Coop is wounded. The things they did to put their stars on pedestals!
Cooper's personal history and the revolting specifics of the McCarthy period, one of the ugliest of all American episodes since the Salem Witch Hunt, that was three hundred years ago: these stories are well worth reading about. They, too are weighed down by over-elaboration. The author appears to have spent a decade researching the book, and he needs to show us exactly how hard he worked to produce it. I agree that the time of the blacklist is well worth reading about, for its own sake, and for the utter ruthlessness of the tyrants who were responsible for the disgusting disaster. It reminds me of what some wise person said: that history does not repeat itself; it paraphrases. The current administration, not to wander off into the political, is a harsh reminder of how easy it is to demonize a minority group, to capitalize on the very worst qualities of the American people. This behavior is so deeply cynical and so ruthlessly self-serving that it almost makes me vomit just to think about it. My family has made a pact to never even bring up the bastard's name, as that moment serves to lower the IQ of the discussion to unacceptable levels. Ugh. Those who say that we have become the laughingstock of the world: not to overstate that, but they have a very good point. The 19th century was the British time; the 20th century was the American chance to lead the world; the 21st century belongs to China and some of the rest of Asia. We have blown it, as all empire-makers eventually do. The results of these debacles are not pretty to observe.
Sorry for the tangent. I apologize. Last time I will veer into the "real" world.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • S. Moorcroft
  • 12-30-17

Movies as Metaphor

Having always enjoyed and appreciated High Noon as a thoughtful and intelligent film I was interested in understanding the back story behind the film. You certainly get that and a whole lot more besides. It is one of the best descriptions of the cruelty and capricious nature of HUAC and the blacklist I have read. Indeed given the mendacity and insatiable hatred of the 're baiting' right, it is possible to forget that some of those singled out by HUAC were unapologetic Stalinists.
Still this surely represents the definitive account of High Noon and the fetid atmosphere out of which it emerged.