Blending movie making and political intrigue, Glenn
Frankel’s “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American
Classic,” is a compelling account of the drama within the drama during the
making of the critically acclaimed Gary Cooper film.
With clarity and impressive detail, Frankel’s narrative
unravels the attitudes and desperation which pervaded Hollywood during the
height of McCarthyism in the early 50s. Speaking to both the film enthusiast as
well as the history buff, the book chronicles the film's production against the
backdrop of the House Un-American Activities Committee’s oppressive hunt for
Communist infiltrators in the film industry. Livelihoods were lost, families
wrecked, and friendships destroyed as result of the blacklist. Many in
Hollywood were forced to make the agonizing choice between ratting out friends
and associates or going to jail.
While Cooper is the star of the film, screenwriter Carl
Foreman emerges as a central character in Frankel’s book, as he himself faces
the wrath of the HUAC for his former communist ties. Foreman, who wrote the screenplay
as an allegory about the blacklist movement was eventually blacklisted himself
and moved to England shortly after the film was released in 1952.
Just as many in Hollywood felt abandoned and betrayed by
those who named names, the film’s protagonist, Sheriff Will Kane (Cooper) is
also abandoned by those he thought he could count on. Rather than flee to
safety, Kane faces down his enemies alone in a life or death shootout.
Foreman’s script parallels the pervading fear and uncertainty of the time period,
a brutal era in American history. Kane thought he could count on his friends in
a time of need. But like many in Hollywood who were ensnared in McCarthyism’s
vice-grip, fear won out, and his friends let him down. Foreman himself later
said he felt betrayed by his partner and the film’s producer, Stanley Kramer,
after Kramer denied Foreman producing credit due to his entanglement in the
But while the “Red Scare” takes center stage in the book,
Frankel also examines Cooper’s early life, as well as his physical and
emotional struggles during the filming of “High Noon.”
“High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an
American Classic” is about a pivotal film and those who bought it to screen. It
is also about the often predatory nature of politics and how the paranoid fear
of communism virtually turned Hollywood against itself.