Mythology, language, values, habits and traditions – these are elements of culture that unite people in a distinct, specific nation. Myths provide precise and vivid image of good and evil, right and wrong, a clear portrays of a hero and a villain. A true American mythology is a mysterious, heroic and dangerous Wild West. There are numerous movies where a courageous sheriff comes into mortal fight with a merciless criminal and saves the whole town. Noon, an empty street, two men with guns…final thunderous shot…victory! “High Noon” directed by Fred Zinnemann is a typical Western film outwardly, thou it seriously questions popular vision of Wild West – the characters and the way they behave differ greatly from a customary Western myth.
First of all, the key points of the film are not typical. It starts with the marriage of the main hero, Marshal Will Kane, what is supposed to be a “happy end”. The main character is of age when he should be in the Mentor role but not the Hero role. The problem is that his successor as well as the predecessor is not helpful. This contradicts a common Western myth – the situation occurred at the wrong point of the hero’s life.
According to the prevalent vision, the main hero should not ask for help as he is a professional and a brave man. Still, Will Kane spends most of the time, remained to the arrival of the train with the evildoer, trying to find someone to help him in fight. He often shows disappointment, sadness and despair – emotions that should be unfamiliar to the “rescuer”. The very idea of asking of help should be unknown to the hero – he must be strong and bold enough to face a danger alone and confident. Moreover, his sureness should inspire the rest of the city to face the enemy, though the main hero will decidedly deny any help not to endanger peaceful citizens. In the movie, Marshal rushes to the pub, full of the “bad man’s” buds, then to the church, showing his anxiety and uncertainty. The only helpers he finds are a local drunkard and Kane’s own wife. Furthermore, Kane’s wife seems to be the key figure for the victory. It is she who kills one of the villains, and she helped Marshal to make a crucial shot. In general, women in the movie are more confident and determined than men.
Moreover, the citizens reveal such undesirable traits as cowardice and weakness. In a typical Western mythology people can be scared by a villain – he can threat them, robber, blackmail, and intimidate with force. Being frightened, the citizens remain rebellious and do their best to annoy an evildoer and assist a hero. In the movie local residents abandon the city, find numerous reasons to stay away from the town defense and even plead Marshal to leave for his honeymoon trip. The townsfolk represent average American people, so turn them into traitors with poor moral norms. Thus when the main hero throws his badge in dust to express his disgust and contempt, his deed is quite justified (Unruh, “The Western”: An American Mythology”).
American mythology is based on the idea of rebellion and self-affirmation. The Western myth should represent confrontation between law and anarchy, strength and weakness, justice and harm, where good must defeat evil (Unruh, “The Problem with High Noon”). “High Noon”is a presentation of contemporary ideas but not a true West myth (Kaminsky).
True American myth with a lonely hero, who leads his war with evil and wins, is a common character of Westerns. Bounds between right and wrong are clear and vivid. “High Noon” questions cannons of conventional Wild West – the main hero and the citizens reveal weaknesses, typical for real life.