119 years ago today, Gary Cooper was born in Helena, Montana.
Cooper was an actor who, for many viewers, represented the American ideal. He played characters who were strong and modest and who refused to compromise their principles. Though Gary Cooper appeared in many films over the course of his career, he is probably destined to be forever associated with High Noon. In this classic western, Cooper plays Will Kane, the marshal who finds himself abandoned by almost everyone when a group of killers come to town looking to kill him. The film is often seen as being a commentary on the 1950s Red Scare. Cooper, who was a committed anti-Communist and about as conservative as anyone in Hollywood, stood up for the film’s screenwriter, the blacklisted Carl Foreman and threatened to walk off the picture when it appeared that Foreman’s writing credit might be removed. That was what a huge part of Cooper’s appeal. He did the right thing, even if it meant standing up for someone with whom he didn’t agree. There aren’t many Gary Coopers left today, are there?
Below, we have the final scene of High Noon, in which the cowardly townspeople finally come to support Marshal Kane. Kane, disgusted by their actions, can only throw away his star and leave town. Even without dialogue, Cooper lets you know exactly what is going through Kane’s mind. It’s a great scene from a great film featuring a great actor.