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High Noon is a 1952 American western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The film tells in real time the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman.
In 1989, High Noon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", entering the registry during the latter's first year of existence. The film is #27 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of great films.
Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, has just married pacifist Quaker Amy (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He intends to become a storekeeper elsewhere. Suddenly, the town learns that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) — a criminal Kane brought to justice — is due to arrive on the noon train. Miller had been sentenced to hang, but was pardoned on an unspecified legal technicality. In court, he had vowed to get revenge on Kane and anyone else who got in the way. Miller's three gang members — including his younger brother Ben (Sheb Wooley of The Purple People Eater and Rawhide fame) — wait for him at the station. The worried townspeople encourage Kane to leave, hoping that would defuse the situation.
Kane and his wife leave town, but — fearing that the gang will hunt him down and would be a danger to the townspeople — Kane turns back. He reclaims his badge and scours the town for help. His deputy, Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) resigns, because he wants the glory of facing Frank Miller for himself. Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), Kane's former lover, supports him, but there is little she can do to help. Disgusted by the cowardice and ingratitude of her neighbors, she sells her business and prepares to leave town. Amy threatens to leave on the noon train, with or without Kane, but he stubbornly refuses to give in. He interrupts Sunday church services looking for deputies. While many townspeople profess to admire Kane, nobody volunteers.
In the end, Kane faces the Miller Gang alone. Kane guns down two of the gang, though he himself is wounded in the process. Helen Ramirez and Amy both board the train, but Amy gets off when she hears the sound of gunfire. Amy chooses her husband's life over her religious beliefs, shooting Ben from behind. Frank then takes her hostage to force Kane into the open. However, Amy suddenly attacks Frank who is forced to push her aside, giving Kane a clear shot, and Kane shoots Frank Miller dead. As the townspeople emerge, Kane contemptuously throws his marshal's star in the dirt and leaves town with his wife.
Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane
Grace Kelly as Amy (Fowler) Kane
Katy Jurado as Helen Ramirez
Lloyd Bridges as Deputy Sheriff Harvey Pell
Ian MacDonald as Frank Miller
Thomas Mitchell as Mayor Jonas Henderson
Otto Kruger as Judge Percy Mettrick
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Martin Howe (as Lon Chaney)
Harry Morgan as Sam Fuller (as Henry Morgan)
Eve McVeagh as Mildred Fuller
Morgan Farley as Dr. Mahin, Minister
Harry Shannon as Cooper
Lee Van Cleef as Jack Colby
Robert J. Wilke as Pierce (as Robert Wilke)
Sheb Wooley as Ben Miller
Jack Elam as Charlie the Drunkard (uncredited)
High Noon (1952)
Reviewed by Tim Dirks
High Noon (1952)
The film's screenplay by Carl Foreman [this was his last Hollywood film before blacklist exile to London, soon after his work on Home of the Brave (1949), Champion (1949), and The Men (1950)], written during a politically-oppressive atmosphere in the early 1950s when McCarthyism and political persecution were rampant, was loosely adapted from a Collier's Magazine story The Tin Star (by John W. Cunningham) published in December 1947. In fact, the film's story has often been interpreted as a morality play or parable, or as a metaphor for the threatened Hollywood blacklisted artists (one of whom was screenwriter Foreman) who faced political persecution from the HUAC during the McCarthy era due to actual or imagined connections to the Communist Party, and made life-altering decisions to stand their ground and defend moral principles according to their consciences.
It also has been interpreted as an allegory of the Cold War and US foreign policy during the Korean War. This taut, tightly-scripted, minimalist film tells the tale of a solitary, stoic, honor-bound marshal/hero, past his prime and already retired, who was left desolate and abandoned by the Hadleyville townspeople he had faithfully protected for many years (symbolically - during the World War II years). Due to the townspeople's cowardice (representing cooperative witnesses before the HUAC), physical inability, self-interest, expediency, and indecisiveness, he is refused help at every turn against a revenge-seeking killer and his gang. Fearful but duty-bound, he eventually vanquishes the enemy, thereby sparing the civilized (democratic) town the encroachment of barbaristic frontier justice brought by the deadly four-man group of outlaws (symbolic of the aggressive threat in the Korean War, or the HUAC itself). Embittered by film's end, he tosses his tin star into the dirt of the dishonorable frontier town.
One of the film posters described the theme of the deserted, lone marshal who stubbornly insisted on delaying his newly-married life with a pacifist Quaker wife (symbolic of US isolationists) in order to stay and confront his former nemesis and paroled murderer - Frank Miller:
The story of a man who was too proud to run.
Another slogan claimed: "...when the hands point up - the excitement starts!" [Director Howard Hawks and actor John Wayne both responded to the liberal preachiness of this 'un-American' film (and its cowardly townspeople) by creating a no-nonsense, right-wing rebuttal in Rio Bravo (1959). In the film, self-reliant Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) refused the well-meaning assistance of Pat Wheeler's (Ward Bond) men -- "some well-meaning amateurs, most of 'em worried about their wives and kids," although all he had to help him keep a murderer from making a jailbreak was "a lame-legged old man and a drunk."]
The dramatic, tightly-compressed, austere black and white film with high-contrast images was shot in a spare 31 days, and the physically-pained, ravaged look etched on 51 year old Gary Cooper's gaunt face was due to actual illness (a recurring hip problem, bleeding stomach ulcers, and lower back pain), and emotional stress due to his recent breakup with actress Patricia Neal after a three-year, well-publicized affair while separated from his wife. The time span of the film (about 105 minutes) approximates the actual screen length of the film - 85 minutes - accentuated by frequent images of the clock as time rapidly dissipates before the final showdown. Cameraman Floyd Crosby's years of filming New Deal documentaries is evident in the film's sparseness, static compositions, and authentic feel.
This simple, stark, low-budget Western classic, with a total budget of $750,000, was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture (won by Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)), Best Director, and Best Screenplay - it was awarded four awards: Best Song for "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" (sung by Tex Ritter throughout the film, lyrics by Ned Washington, music by Dimitri Tiomkin), Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Dimitri Tiomkin), Best Film Editing (Elmo Williams and Harry Gerstad), and Best Actor for Gary Cooper's performance - his second Oscar after a win for Sergeant York (1941). [Cooper's win was an unusual honor, since Western films (and acting roles) are rare nominees and winners in Academy history! The film's theme song was made a popular hit by Western singer Frankie Laine.] Presumably, the Academy felt obligated to honor one of filmdom's greatest directors (DeMille) with the Best Picture Oscar, as his career was coming to an end.
A made-for-TV movie was titled High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980) with Lee Majors in the lead role. It was remade as a science-fiction film, writer/director Peter Hyams' Outland (1981) with Sean Connery, with the adapted plot transferred to interstellar space (and ridiculed as "High Moon"). It was also remade as a TV movie by Ted Turner's TBS station with Tom Skerritt as the lead character and Michael Madsen as the heavy named Frank Miller. Other High Noon imitations or variations: the teen comedy Three O'Clock High (1987) took the conflict to a school setting, while The Baltimore Bullet (1980) moved it to a pool hall show-down.
The film's credits, accompanied by the "High Noon" title song, play atop a scene of desperadoes gathering on the outskirts of a town. On a blazing summer morning [probably between 1870 and 1880], the three gang members have converged on the small, quiet, arid western town of Hadleyville (population about four hundred). The gunslingers ride by the town's church (one of the town's many seemingly respectable, stable, and supportive institutions), where Sunday morning church bells are pealing as a signal to worship. They are ominously recognized by an old Spanish woman who crosses herself, a fireman, and other townsfolk outside the Ramirez Saloon. One of the three, Ben Miller (Sheb Woolley), rides his unbridled horse uncontrollably toward a sign reading "MARSHAL" - a foreshadowing of the film's conflict.
The riders pass the Justice of the Peace's window (the town's courtroom), where the societal ritual of marriage is in preparation. Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger) is to marry the town's 'ex' marshal, middle-aged Will Kane (Gary Cooper) ["Will" - a richly symbolic name] and a beautiful young Quaker girl, Amy Fowler (23 year-old Grace Kelly in her first major role). [The first view of a clock is in this scene: it is 10:35 am. Another clock reads 10:33 am in the town's barber shop.] Word spreads quickly about the gang members who are identified by the barber (William Phillips) as Ben Miller, James Pierce (Bob Wilke) and Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef, a frequent Western villain, e.g., For a Few Dollars More (1965), and the "Bad" character in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)).
In a cross-cut, parallel scene at 10:35, the trio arrives at the town's deserted train station platform just as the train station master (Ted Stanhope) reads a disturbing telegram. An impatient, surly Pierce, one of the riders asks the station master:
During the marriage ceremony, Kane's (and Amy's) first words in the film are "I do." Their wedding guests include the town's senior selectman and ring bearer Jonas Henderson (Thomas Mitchell), ex-Marshal Martin Howe (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and good friend/neighbor Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan, credited as Henry Morgan) and his wife Mildred (Eve McVeagh). [Kane will have individual confrontations with each of the three male guests Henderson, Fuller, and Howe ("the entire board of selectmen in this community") later in the film.] After they are pronounced "man and wife" and the celebration begins, Kane finds privacy in an adjoining room with his new wife and promises: "I'm gonna try, Amy, I'll do my best." The new and younger marshal to replace Kane is expected to arrive the following day, and Henderson assures everyone: "This town will be safe 'til tomorrow." His new bride has firm, pacifist Quaker convictions that deplore violence, and he will be putting away his marshal's star in his last act in office - he removes his badge, a popular Western icon, and pins it on his gun holster, amidst applause.
At that moment, the train station master bursts in, bringing a telegram ("it's terrible, it's shocking"). The message announces that outlaw Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), put away in a penitentiary by Kane five years earlier for terrorizing the town, was pardoned a week earlier and paroled. And three others are waiting for Miller who is to arrive on the noon train at Hadleyville, to seek revenge on the Marshal. Kane glances at the clock - it's 10:40 am. Henderson encourages the newlywed couple to leave town immediately: "Get out of this town this very minute...Don't stop 'til you get to Clarksburg." The former marshal's first reaction reveals his sense of responsibility:
Percy Mettrick, the judge who sentenced Miller and officiated at Kane's marriage, is 'forsaking' the community. Kane finds him packing his office to expediently leave town (he folds an American flag, and a miniature scale of justice and places both into his saddlebags), recommending that Kane do the same while reminding him of the courtroom threat Miller had delivered many years earlier to kill both of them:
Have you forgotten that I'm the man who passed sentence on Frank Miller?
Although there's "no time for a lesson in civics," he does indeed deliver a civics lesson, illustrated by two historical incidents in towns that surrendered their freedom to returning tyrants. The first story, taken from classical history in 5th century B.C. Athens, tells of a tyrant who returned with mercenaries to execute members of the League of Government as the town's citizens looked on:
The clock reads 10:53 am on the mantle in the room where young deputy Harvey eats breakfast with Helen - she realizes he is sulking, "really sore" at Kane, and jealous of the marshal's authority and position after failing to be promoted to the position.
As the Judge flees on horseback, he castigates the town: "This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important. Now get out." But Kane is steadfast: "There isn't time." With a fatherly manner, Kane asks a young boy in town to locate Jonas Henderson, Martin Howe and Sam Fuller - and "tell 'em I want 'em here."
Kane's young deputy/friend Harvey Pell, who had assumed that Will "carried a lot of weight," is bitter that Kane didn't support him as his successor before the city fathers, passing over him as a replacement in favor of an unknown marshal from another town. Furthermore, an aggrieved Harvey accuses Will of speaking against him because he was possibly immature and "too young," or because his current girlfriend Helen was Will's old flame/mistress. [Helen Ramirez is the structural link-pin, through her romantic affairs, between all three male leads - young Harvey, hero Will, and villain Frank Miller.] Will denies only the second charge:
Upon his return to a dark-haired and mature Helen, she reinforces her lack of faith in him and laughingly urges the sulking, cigar-smoking Harvey to "grow up." The aggravated, pompous, power-jealous ex-deputy grouses and swaggers about the room: "Why should he have gone for it? He needs me. He'll need me plenty when Frank Miller gets here...He should've had me made Marshal to begin with. He's just sore is all, sore about you and me." Helen kicks Harvey out, angered that he talked to Kane about the Marshal's past relationship with her [in the past, Helen had left Miller for Kane]:
In a secretive meeting, Helen (with revealing cleavage) offers to have her covert front ("silent partner") Weaver buy out her business for a "fair" price of two thousand dollars: "I want to sell the store. You want to buy me out?" Since Weaver can raise only half the amount, he is allowed to pay the remaining balance in six months, and the deal is settled.
On his way into the hotel to speak to Helen Ramirez, Kane recognizes Amy's buggy parked in front. Thinking she has re-evaluated her departure, he is grateful to see his bride: "Amy, you've changed your mind." However, she also wonders whether he has changed his mind: "I thought you had changed yours. No, Will, I have my ticket." As he ascends the stairs, the hotel clerk sarcastically questions, within Amy's hearing: "Think you can find it all right?"
Upstairs, Kane speaks in a straight-forward manner to his former mistress (from one year earlier) to warn her that Miller is coming. As she packs, she advises him to get out as well - with her still-burning passion for him, although she empathically 'knows' and accepts his decision to remain:
It's 11:18 am when Kane returns to his Marshal's office to get a deputy's badge. As he leaves his office, the camera tracks backwards as his imposing figure strides over to the Ramirez Saloon - he bumps into Ben Miller on the way out. The saloon keeper is already setting odds on the outcome of the showdown - loudly predicting Kane's quick death: "I'll give ya odds. Kane's dead five minutes after Frank gets off the train...That's all Frank'll need because I..." Losing his temper, Kane approaches from behind and slugs the greasy-haired bartender in the jaw. After apologizing as a gentleman, he appeals for special deputies ("I'll take all I can get") from the patrons of one of the town's institutions, but receives no takers. The bartender mocks him: "You must be crazy coming in here to raise a posse. Frank's got friends in this room. You ought to know that."
Kane is reminded that "things were different" when he arrested Miller years earlier: "You had six steady deputies to start off with, every one a top gun. You ain't got but two now." And another cowardly dissenter remarks, at 11:20 am: "You're askin' an awful lot, Kane, considering the kind of man Frank Miller is." The Marshal surveys the faces of the unresponsive, hostile men in the saloon with prejudices and jealousies. He is mercilessly mocked and laughed at as he departs.
At a private citizen's home, the Fullers - Kane's good friends, they refuse to get involved. [A clock in their hallway reads 11:25 am.] Kane is lied to by Mildred Fuller, the ashamed wife of her fearful husband Sam, who hides and pretends he is not at home, while sending his wife to the door. Later after the marshal walks away, Fuller excuses his deceitful cowardice: "Well, whaddya want? Do you want me to get killed? Do you want to be a widow, is that what you want?"
Kane gracefully refuses the volunteered services of an elderly, one-eyed drunk Jimmy (William Newell), judging him as more of a liability than an asset: "I'll call ya if I need ya."
In the meantime back at the hotel, Harvey confronts Helen who is preparing to leave due to her fear of Miller. He boasts about how he could take on Miller any time and defend her. He fears she is "cuttin' out with Kane," causing Helen to compare his youthful, emotional immaturity to Kane's grown-up, moral courage:
Kane is determined to gather support from another one of the town's institutions - the church. He interrupts the Sunday service as the minister (Morgan Farley) reads scripture from the Book of Malachi, Chapter 4: "For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedness shall be..." The marshal is desperate for help - to find volunteers to be appointed as special deputies. He is curtly reminded that he didn't "see fit" to be married in that church: "What could be so important to bring you here now?" Kane simply replies: "I need help." He admits that he isn't "a church-going man," and that he wasn't married there - because his wife is a Quaker. "But I came here for help, because there are people here."
He appeals to the church-going Christians about his dilemma: "It looks like Frank Miller's comin' back on the noon train. I need all the special deputies I can get." [This scene was spoofed in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974).] A number of men impulsively step forward to volunteer, but are interrupted by Cooper (Harry Shannon), one of the members:
A quick cut to the train station displays the train tracks stretching far out to the distant horizon - the camera is placed directly between the rails, awaiting the noon train.
Back in the church, Coy (Harry Harvey) blames the Northern politicians for their small-town problems: "Yes, we all know who Miller is, but we put him away once. And who saved him from hanging? The politicians up North. I say this is their mess. Let them take care of it." Another complacent church-goer named Sawyer (Tim Graham) reveals his lack of support: "We've been payin' good money right along for a marshal and deputies. Now the first time there's any trouble, we're supposed to take care of it ourselves. Well, what have we been payin' for all this time? I say we're not peace officers. This ain't our job!" Another man: "I've been sayin' right along, we ought to have more deputies. If we did, we wouldn't be facin' this thing now." And finally, an astonished Ezra (Tom Greenway) stands and admonishes the church gathering of self-serving, cowardly individuals:
Jonas Henderson sums up the debate by first complimenting Kane:
What this town owes Will Kane here it can never pay with money - and don't ever forget it. He's the best marshal we ever had, maybe the best marshal we'll ever have. So if Miller comes back here today, it's our problem, not his. It's our problem because this is our town. We made it with our own hands out of nothing. And if we want to keep it decent, keep it growing, we've got to think mighty clear here today. And we've gotta have the courage to do what we think is right no matter how hard it is.
While he believes Miller is the town's concern and problem, a violent shoot-out would also create a bad image for Hadleyville up North, especially for financial growth and investment support from Northern business interests:
Kane leaves the church empty-handed after a quickly-spoken "Thanks." Outside the church, groups of children dismissed from the church struggle together in a tug-of-war [symbolic of the tensions within the elders of the community] and fall to the ground. The train tracks stretching to the horizon are viewed once again.
As the forsaken Kane - with his options dwindling fast - strides through the town on another round [many of these repetitive scenes are shot from a low-angle], he encounters young boys enacting a shoot-out. During the play-acting, one youngster shouts out: "Bang, bang, you're dead, Kane."
The weary Marshal goes to see the aging, discarded, arthritic ex-marshal Matt Howe, who lives with an Indian woman in a house surrounded by a white picket fence. The embittered Howe gives his cynical opinion about his past profession as a life-long 'tin-star' lawman:
I've heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn't help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That's when I became a Quaker. I don't care who's right or who's wrong. There's got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.
Kane's young wife cannot understand her husband's code of honor. Nevertheless, a bit later (after the fistfight between Harvey and Kane), Helen sternly counsels that Amy should support her desolate husband under all circumstances:
In the town's barber shop - at eight minutes until noon, Kane's face is cleaned up, as he hears hammering from nearby. In front of a sign reading "COMPLETE FUNERAL SERVICE" at six minutes until noon, Kane tells the barber that he fully expects to have need for the coffin that Fred is constructing out back: "You can tell your man he can go back to work now." A number of repetitive, low-angle shots of the empty train tracks stretching statically and receding out into the distance have been interspersed between scenes - the shot is again repeated here. At almost five minutes to twelve, Kane returns to his office where townsman Herb Baker has been waiting after volunteering to help. When told that there aren't any "other boys," Herb pleads that he must back out:
Herb: Time's gettin' pretty short.
In one of the film's most emotional, affecting moments, Kane lowers his face to the office desk where he sits, slumps down and appears to cry momentarily while clenching his fist, but he is interrupted by another volunteer, a young 14 year-old teenaged boy who claims that he's sixteen. Kane refuses assistance: "You're a kid, you're a baby."
He prepares for the inevitable gunfight by loading his gun with bullets, at four minutes to twelve. The grungy, mean outlaws at the train depot are also checking their weapons.
In a powerful, memorable montage of images (beautifully edited with each individual shot lasting four swings of the pendulum), tension, fear, and frustration register on Kane's anguished face. The haggard marshal sits down to write his last will and testament in his office - the sound of the clock ticks faintly in the background - it is now two minutes until twelve. The giant pendulum of the clock, in a close-up, swings back and forth. The solemn silence, simultaneously witnessed at the train depot, in the church pews, at the bar, around town, in the Fuller and Howe house, and in the hotel (often with closeups of distressed, anxious faces) - and a single zoom shot toward an empty witness chair (where Miller had threatened to seek revenge) - is punctuated by the noon train's whistle heard from afar.
[The actual running time of the film is now at approximately 72 minutes, with twelve or thirteen minutes of the film remaining. However, over 85 minutes of clock time have elapsed in the film. Also, a few minutes of action have not been accounted for during the film's early credits scene.]
Kane has decided that the showdown is a challenge he has chosen to meet even if it means his own death. He places his will in a sealed envelope, writing on the outside: "To be opened in the event of my death." As the faraway train approaches on the rails toward the camera, the white billowing smoke from its stack turns to thick black smoke.
His final, humane gesture before meeting his destiny on the street with the desperadoes is to release Charlie (Jack Elam), the town's drunk, from the office's single jail cell. Out front, Kane's eyes pan across the empty street. His gaze follows the progress of Helen and Amy (who drives) who share a buckboard ride to the train depot. They ride silently past him as he stands alone in the street. The camera takes their perspective as the shot tracks back from his solitary figure.
At the station as she boards the train, Helen notices the arrival of Frank Miller - first viewed from behind to build curiosity and increase tension and suspense, and then seen with a close-up of his acne-scarred face. The gunmen begin their confrontational walk toward town.
In the exciting finale and gripping shootout sequence on Hadleyville's main street, Kane is betrayed and all alone, surveying and walking up the deserted streets of the ghost town toward the four tough killers. No one is there to support him and come to his aid:
Impatient and unable to control his impulses, Ben Miller smashes a store-front window to steal a ladies' bonnet and tie it on his waist - Frank rhetorically asks the same question that Pierce asked him earlier in the film: "Can't you wait?" Having heard their menacing approach, Kane hides patiently as they pass by - and then calls out to them: "Miller!"
When they open fire, the first to be eliminated is Ben Miller. When Amy hears the first sounds of gunfire from her train seat, she rises and rushes toward town as the train pulls away. Her love and admiration for her new husband compels her to stand with her man. In front of the Justice of the Peace's office, where she was married earlier, she discovers the dead body of Miller with his gun resting by his side. Using hit-and-run tactics, Kane retreats to the stable, and from the barn's hayloft kills Colby. Frank Miller sets the stable barn on fire, trying to smoke Kane out. He escapes the barn by riding low on a horse during a stampede, but is shot off the fleeing horse and wounded in the left arm. Weakened and missing an open shot at his pursuers, Kane takes cover in the saddlery. Across the street in the Marshal's office, Amy hears further gunshots.
Pierce and Miller split up in different directions to set up a deadly crossfire - Miller fires from the street while Pierce circles around and fires at Kane from the side of the Marshal's office. In one of the film's most enduring images, Kane peers out from behind broken glass in the window. With two depleted pistols, Pierce is gunblasted in the back through another broken window - by Amy. Kane's wife is the only one to risk her life, putting aside her pacifist beliefs to kill one of the gunslingers in order to protect her husband and save his life. Miller enters the back door of the office and grabs Amy, holding her as hostage. He threatens to shoot Amy in the back unless Kane comes out in the open:
There is no time for triumphant celebration - theirs is a hollow victory. Kane helps Amy board their packed buggy, brought to them by the faithful teenage boy. Then, he disdainfully looks around, reaches for his 'tin' badge, takes it off, contemptuously drops it into the dusty street, and turns to leave.
[Western film hero John Wayne criticized the ending of the film - calling it an un-American conclusion, although he mistakenly thought that Cooper stepped and ground the badge under his heel. Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971) paid homage to this last scene when Clint Eastwood, the unrepentant, maverick cop "Dirty Harry" Callahan 'throws away' the symbol of his future police career in disgust at the film's conclusion.]
Without support from the people, Kane will no longer be their leader. Silently, without a backward glance or goodbye, he and Amy ride off into the distance from the community of weak, fickle onlookers in the saved, unremarkable town of Hadleyville ("a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere," according to the Judge). The contemptible crowd that was unwilling to fight to preserve its law and order remains silent as the buckboard goes out of view, accompanied by the title song's famous melancholy ballad.