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Film

The three US Presidents that called 'High Noon' their favourite movie

@Russellisation

Popularly known as one of the most influential western movies of all time, High Noon by Fred Zinnemann set a revolutionary new benchmark for how the genre should be interpreted by contemporary audiences. Released 70 years ago in 1952, the western was released to significant controversy at the time due to its political themes that seemed to question the very structure of rural America. 

Considered one of the very first revisionist westerns, High Noon tells the story of a town marshal whose morality is tested when he is forced to decide whether to face a gang of criminals alone, or leave the town and seek safety with his wife. Starring Gary Cooper who took home an Academy Award for his leading performance, as well as the influential screen icon Grace Kelly, High Noon became a cultural sensation despite its challenging themes. 

Subtly changing the societal vision of the western genre, questioning the constructs of the brutish male lead character as well as the role of female figures in such movies, High Noon remains a favourite of key figures and filmmakers from around the world.

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Named on Sergio Leone’s own list of favourite westerns, the reach of High Noon is self-evident, providing a brand new image of modern masculinity in the context of the western genre. Gone was the reliance on the gun-slinging hero John Wayne, and instead, Gary Cooper was seen as the modern figure of idealism, with the tumultuous mind of Tony Soprano in the HBO series The Sopranos often bringing up the 1952 classic. 

As well as a favourite of Leone and Soprano, it wasn’t rare for multiple American Presidents to name the stoic film as their top choice, with each of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton choosing the classic when interviewed. 

Enamoured by the movie, Clinton even lent his opinion to the director’s cut of the movie, stating, “It’s no accident that politicians see themselves as Gary Cooper in High Noon…Not just politicians, but anyone who’s forced to go against the popular will. Any time you’re alone and you feel you’re not getting the support you need, Cooper’s Will Kane becomes the perfect metaphor”.

With each of the three Presidents holding frequent screenings of various movies, Clinton wasn’t the only one who held deep-rooted love for the movie, with Eisenhower also thought to have screened over 200 westerns during his time in the White House. Explaining his love for the genre, the former President expressed, “I know they don’t have any substance to them and don’t require any thought to appreciate, but they always have a lot of fancy tricks. Also, I like horses”,  

As for Harry S. Truman, whilst he has never gone on record to discuss his love of the 1952 classic, his passion for cinema was well known, with his tenure as President also known for frequent film screenings within the pearly walls of the White House

Take a look at the trailer for the iconic western movie, below, celebrating its 70-year anniversary on April 29th, 2022.