Relevant Primary Source Material
Take a look at pages 40-56 of the report, a section entitled “Communist Infiltration of Hollywood Motion-Picture Industry.” Page 40 provides an excellent overview of the background behind the HUAC investigations into Hollywood, and page 45 lists High Noon writer Carl Foreman as a suspected “present or past member of the Communist party” due to his refusal to affirm or deny party membership in a September 1951 HUAC hearing (which led to his being branded an “unfriendly witness”).
John Wayne’s May 1971 interview with Playboy magazine was a controversial one, even by Playboy‘s standards. Wayne, never afraid to speak his mind, makes numerous racially charged remarks against blacks, Native Americans, and the Vietnamese. More important to the themes of our CYOU, however, are Wayne’s remarks on pages 17-18, where he talks about his personal stance against communism and calls High Noon the “most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” Indeed, Wayne speaks his mind and says:
I also knew two other fellas who really did things that were detrimental to our way of life. One of them was Carl Foreman, the guy who wrote the screenplay for High Noon….Everybody says High Noon is a great picture because Tiomkin wrote some great music for it and because Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly were in it. So it’s got everything going for it. In that picture, four guys come in to gun down the sheriff. He goes to the church and asks for help and the guys go, “Oh well, oh gee.” And the women stand up and say, “You’re rats. You’re rats. You’re rats.” So Cooper goes out alone. It’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. The last thing in the picture is ole Coop putting the United States marshal’s badge under his foot and stepping on it. I’ll never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country.
Gary Cooper, star of High Noon, was considered to be a “friendly witness” by HUAC. Taking a closer look at his answers to HUAC questioning, however, reveal the vague nature of his responses and his (supposed) unwillingness to rat out any fellow Hollywood personalities. Pages 2-3 reveal some of the indirect answers Cooper gave the committee, including anecdotes on how he couldn’t remember any communist-themed scripts because of his tendencies to read scripts right before bed and throw out scripts at the first allusion to un-American activity.
The website for this 2008 documentary, produced with the tagline “The real life events behind the making of the remarkable film and the gripping story behind its troubled production,” provides an excellent overview of the political climate surrounding 1952’s High Noon. Of special note is the “Videos” page, which explores the 4½ minutes of footage left on the cutting room floor – footage which supposdly dealt with John Wayne’s role as President of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and the fim’s blacklisting controversy.
This 1980 book traces the history of the Western genre in American cinematography, with a particular emphasis on how Westerns represent American values, beliefs, and attitudes better than any other type of film. It also traces the evolution of the Western throughout history, detailing how the genre has changed following its World War II-era heyday.
This brief academic article by Albert Vogt III details how Cold War Westerns were accessbile yet powerful vehicles for distinctly American themes: exceptionalism, “us versus them” mentality, anti-communism, and heroism. Vogt claims the Western’s decline in popularity is commensurate with America’s involvement in Vietnam, as the traditional values these films so commonly espoused led to hundreds of thousands of American casualties and anti-American sentiment throughout the world.
Explore the Western film genre, its themes, and motifs. Additional knowledge about these films can be used to help identify other aspects of Westerns which relate to Cold War Era fears, motivations and ways of life.
List of films (beyond the ones in our CYOU) concerned with the Red Scare, Cold War and HUAC.
An eleven minute epic often considered to be one of Dylan’s best, with frequent references to the 1950 film The Gunfighter.
1. “Old West Night” Deserts and Beyond. N.p., 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://desertsandbeyond.blogspot.com/2011/08/first-nights-sunset.html>.
2. United States. Cong. House. Committee on Un-American Activities. Annual Report of the Committee on Un-American Activities for the Year 1952. 82nd Cong., 2nd sess. H. Rept. 2516. Internet Archive. 17 Aug. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.archive.org/details/annualreportfory1952unit>.
3. “Interview: John Wayne.” Playboy May 1971. The New Effort. 6 May 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.theneweffort.com/men-among-the-ruins-f6/topic2759.html>.
4. Testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. United States House of Representatives (1947) (testimony of Gary Cooper). Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/06/documents/huac/cooper.html>.
5. Moda Entertainment Documentary — Inside High Noon. Inside High Noon/Moda Productions, 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://insidehighnoon.com/index.html>.
6. Lenihan, John H. Showdown: Confronting Modern America in the Western Film. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1980. Google Books. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=E3TaxS2uWxQC&lpg=PR9&ots=R9Dyo6xcwx&dq=western%20film&lr&pg=PA20#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
7. Vogt III, Albert. “The Siege Mentality: Cold War American Westerns.” Web log post. The History Roll. Ed. J.K. Friefeld. 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://historyroll.com/?p=301>.
8. “Westerns Films.” Greatest Films – The Best Movies in Cinematic History. AMC. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.filmsite.org/westernfilms.html>.
9. Pearson, Glenda. “Red Scare Filmography.” University of Washington Libraries. 5 Mar. 1998. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.lib.washington.edu/exhibits/allPowers/film.html>.
10. “High Noon (1952) | Behind the Scenes Movie Facts and Features | Destination Hollywood Tribute.” Destination Hollywood | A Tribute to Tinseltown. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www.destinationhollywood.com/movies/highnoon/funfeatures_content.shtml>.
11. Vejvoda, James, et al. “IGN’s Top 25 Westerns of All Time – Movies Feature at IGN.” IGN Movies. 10 May 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://movies.ign.com/articles/108/1088537p1.html>.
12. “Games | Cowboys, Native American, American History, Wild West, American Indians | Thewildwest.org.” Home | Cowboys, Native American, American History, Wild West, American Indians | Thewildwest.org. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www.thewildwest.org/games.html>.
13. Will Smith. “Wild Wild West.” Willenium. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, 1999. BeeMP3. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://beemp3.com/download.php?file=4820444&song=Wild+Wild+West>.
14. Bob Dylan. “Brownsville Girl.” Knocked Out Loaded. 1986. YouTube. 19 Mar. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcZtubRsW3k>.