(On TV, June 2018) There is, at first, not a lot to distinguish High Noon from countless other westerns—there’s the hero (getting married), there are villains waiting for their boss. A confrontation is coming to a small Western town, and that seems to be the extent of it. But High Noon does go farther than that—first, by taking place in near-real time, it does create more tension than a less time-compressed film, especially as our retiring hero fails to find allies in confronting the coming threat. It culminates in a classic shootout in which help comes from an unlikely place, and concludes with a highly skeptical look at some of the Western’s most cherished clichés. It helps that rock-solid Gary Cooper (looking a bit older than his prime) stars as a good man forced to take one last stand. Grace Kelly is merely fine as the newlywed bride, but Katy Jurado is more eye-catching as a source of wisdom. Keep your eyes open for smaller performances from Lloyd Bridges and Lee van Cleef. Director Fred Zinnemann keeps things stirring until the climactic shootout, and High Noon has survived admirably well even today.
(On Cable TV, February 2018) As much as it pains me to say so, I’m having a bit of trouble properly assessing Mr. Deeds Goes to Town given the existence of the Adam Sandler remake Mr. Deeds. It shouldn’t be this way—Gary Cooper is a far more likable performer than Sandler, and the Frank Capra-directed original is a far more mature piece of work than the lowbrow remake. Still, both movies follow the same structure to such an extent that even a few weeks after seeing the original (oops; I should write these reviews sooner!) the two of them are blurring together. I’m reasonably confident that Winona Ryder wasn’t alive in 1936, though, so here goes: Highlights of the original include a warm performance from Gary Cooper, as well as a fascinating look at mid-thirties New York City, a surprisingly contemporary look at the gossip media news cycle, and a funny montage or two. (One of Capra’s strengths, even from today’s perspective, is his ability to use montages effectively.) It all amounts to an amiable movie, even a heart-warming one … even though its impact may be blunted in those who have seen the remake. I liked it, and while Mr. Deeds Goes to Town clearly show why Gary Cooper was a star, it also shows why Cooper isn’t as fondly remembered as Cary Grant (who was far better at comedy) or James Stewart (a more relatable everyday man). It’s certainly worth a look, even for those who have seen the remake.