Since I was a little boy and my old man would bring home 16-mm reels of old movies, Edward G. Robinson-Jimmy Cagney shoot-em-ups, "Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?" I have found solace in these movies.
I'll be the first to admit there's a certain black-and-whiteness to these black-and-white films that I find comforting. It's nice, at times, to visit a universe where good is good and bad is bad and you know who to root for.
One of my favorite movies of all-time was on Turner Classic Movies last night, at a time which didn't interfere with my much-needed sleep. So at 8PM, I turned on my 13" RCA set in the old walnut wooden cabinet and tuned into "High Noon," by Fred Zinnemann with Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges and Katy Jurado, who during her brief time on screen threatened to steal the whole picture.
I've seen High Noon probably twice a year or more for 45 years. I toggle between it and "Shane" when I need to see a western. Of course, the movie played out just as I remember it. Grace Kelly leaving her husband minutes after marrying him. Frank Miller and his men relentless after Will Kane. The cowardice of Harvey, the age of old Lon Chaney, Jr., unable to fight. And, most important, the whole town abandoning the one man who brought it peace.
But Will Kane prevailed. Gary Cooper, bloody and wounded, with help from his wife, who finally saw justice above her principles, and helped her out-gunned husband, defeated the four bad guys. They lay in the dust.
They lay in the dust where Kane's Sheriff's badge lay, after Cooper rejects the town, its falseness and cowardice and, yes, smallness.
I have pillars like High Noon.
There's the aforementioned Shane. "On the Waterfront" by Kazan written by my old friend Budd Schulberg. There's "The Third Man," by Carol Reed writ by Graham Greene with help from Orson Welles. There's "Citizen Kane," by Welles himself, and "The Lady from Shanghai." And of course, Curtiz's "Casablanca," and two by Huston, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," and "The Maltese Falcon." I'll watch two or three by Kubrick, "The Killing," "Paths of Glory," and of course "Strangelove." There are more, of course there are more. Almost anything by David Lean and Jean Renoir, and Powell and Pressburger, and the comedies of Preston Sturges.
But last night, after a week where as usual, I felt, like Kane outnumbered and out-gunned and alone, I had 90 syncopated minutes of "High Noon."