Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1952. Stanley Kramer Productions. Screenplay by Carl Foreman, based on the magazine story The Tin Star by John W. Cunningham. Cinematography by Floyd Crosby. Produced by Stanley Kramer. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin. Production Design by Rudolph Sternad. Costume Design by Joe King, Ann Peck. Film Editing by Elmo Williams. Academy Awards 1952. Golden Globe Awards 1952.
Gary Cooper stars in this landmark western, one of the first notable films to play out (mostly) in “real time”. The story starts out with his wedding to Quaker Grace Kelly, then continues as he, the sheriff in town, discovers that a group of bandits are on their way to his town to seek vengeance upon him for a past skirmish. The clock ticks away as he waits for the train to arrive, completely alone since the entire town has decided not to help out in any way out of fear. The film was a political statement responding to the Joseph McCarthy red scare “witch hunt” trials, and is none too subtle in its comparisons thanks to Fred Zinnemann’s incredibly cerebral direction. Good Ole’ Americans like John Wayne were incensed by the “Anti-American” nature of the picture, even harassing Cooper with threatening phone calls after its release. A lack of awareness of its political context, however, will not stop any audience member from fully enjoying the brilliance of this exceptional film, one of Zinnemann’s greatest achievements as a director. Also stars Lloyd Bridges and a fantastic supporting performance by Katy Jurado.