Jim A.

The Individual in Movies

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What films do you consider the best movies about the individual? That is, what films are the most focused on the value, the power, the rights and the defense of the individual?

These are my candidates; I'd like to add more, if anybody can recommend any:

The Fountainhead (1949)

High Noon (1952)

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Paths of Glory (1957)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Chocolat (2000)

Spartacus (1960)

Inherit the Wind (1960)

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Jim, if I may ask, why do you consider High Noon to be in defense of the individual?

It seems a lot of people enjoy this movie, but I have never considered it one of my favorites although I do own the movie. One of the reasons I do not enjoy this movie is that the town seems to be full of cowards that are unwilling to help the individual that put the criminal away. Gary Cooper's character, Will Kane, goes around town almost begging for people to help him of which none do and some even run away leaving him alone to protect the townspeople, the town and himself. Will Kane has supposedly spent years defending the townspeople and when requesting help his Quaker wife is the the only one, in the end, that chooses the gun. I do like that Will Kane is willing to fight against evil even when it is very probable that he might not win. When I look at this movie in it's full context, I cannot get over the fact that the townspeople are willing to let their protector of many years die without helping him and hence why I do not consider it one of my favorites.

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Ray, High Noon is about an individual who holds his ground. That is the focus of the movie. The town folks are the contrast, so I find it odd that you use this fact to downgrade the movie.

My additions are The Winslow Boy and October Sky. The former a fight for justice, the latter a fight for values against prevailing circumstances.

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Ray, High Noon is about an individual who holds his ground. That is the focus of the movie. The town folks are the contrast, so I find it odd that you use this fact to downgrade the movie.

He holds his ground for cowards that are unwilling to help him even though they know he is out numbered. In other words, he is standing his ground for people that do not value his life (the individual) enough to choose to help him. If Will Kane would have died, it would have been a sacrifice of his life for people that were seemingly unworthy. I remind you that the townspeople are supposed to have been his friends for a long time and still they choose to do nothing, a valuing of individual life, I do not see it.

I would also add that you question whether or not this movie was about "the individual" as it was written by Carl Foreman who was one of the "blacklisted" communist writers that took the Fifth Amendment during the HUAC trials and later moved to England to get away from the "Red Scare."

In contrast I offer the Howard Hawks's directed movie Rio Bravo. In Rio Bravo the sheriff arrest a murderer and then holds him in jail awaiting trial. The sheriff does not go around searching for people to help him and does his job without expecting any help from the townspeople. But the townspeople and some others offer up their help, of which the sheriff turns down most of them. The sheriff ends up with the help of a drunken old deputy/friend, an old semi-crippled deputy/friend, a moral young gunman, a dance-hall girl and a hotel owner. These people choose that the sheriff's life (the individual) is of value and worthy of defending.

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Ray, High Noon is about an individual who holds his ground. That is the focus of the movie. The town folks are the contrast, so I find it odd that you use this fact to downgrade the movie.

He holds his ground for cowards that are unwilling to help him even though they know he is out numbered. In other words, he is standing his ground for people that do not value his life (the individual) enough to choose to help him.

I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

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Arnold, Gary Cooper's character is a marshal in an old west town. A marshal is supposed to be a protector of the community that he is enforcing the laws in. With that context in mind, I am not certain of exactly what the movie is trying to give us for contemplation. Marshal Will Kane is obviously a man of honor, but he also seems to be willing to sacrifice his life protecting a community of cowards that do not value him as the individual that has been the protector of their rights/lifes. And if we add in the fact of who wrote the screenplay, I am almost certain that he did not want us to contemplate selfishness as heroic or honorable.

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In contrast I offer the Howard Hawks's directed movie Rio Bravo. In Rio Bravo the sheriff arrest a murderer and then holds him in jail awaiting trial. The sheriff does not go around searching for people to help him and does his job without expecting any help from the townspeople. But the townspeople and some others offer up their help, of which the sheriff turns down most of them. The sheriff ends up with the help of a drunken old deputy/friend, an old semi-crippled deputy/friend, a moral young gunman, a dance-hall girl and a hotel owner. These people choose that the sheriff's life (the individual) is of value and worthy of defending.
It's funny that I was just going to post a note citing the same movie. In fact, Howard Hawks purposely wrote Rio Bravo in answer to what he saw as Kane's mistaken approach:
The idea for Rio Bravo (1959) began with Howard Hawks hating High Noon (1952). In 1962, Hawks explained this to me, referring to High Noon as that picture “in which Gary Cooper ran around trying to get help and no one would give him any. And that’s rather a silly thing for a man to do, especially since at the end of the picture he is able to do the job by himself. So I said, ‘We’ll do just the opposite, and take a real professional viewpoint.…”

I like both films, though I'd rather live in a town with John Wayne as the sheriff than one with Gary Cooper.

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Ed, thanks for the link as I had never read that review. I have enjoyed Howard Hawks's movies since I saw Red River in the early 80s.

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I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

Whether his motivation is rational or not is certainly open for debate, but he never says he's doing it for the town. What he does say is it's his responsibility to stay because he helped put the outlaw away the first time. Also he knows the guy is going to start trouble, even if the town is content to evade that fact. So I concluded that it was about his integrity, that he had accepted the charge to protect the town and that job was not yet finished.

I think Howard Hawks' complaint that Kane running around to get help is a "rather silly thing to do" since in the end he won by himself, is ridiculous. Kane sought help because he knew the stakes. He wasn't looking to die for the town (especially since he'd just gotten married), he was looking to see that justice was done. But when he couldn't find help, he still stood his ground against 3 dangerous men and prevailed.

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What films do you consider the best movies about the individual? That is, what films are the most focused on the value, the power, the rights and the defense of the individual?

These are my candidates; I'd like to add more, if anybody can recommend any:

The Fountainhead (1949)

High Noon (1952)

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Paths of Glory (1957)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Chocolat (2000)

Spartacus (1960)

Inherit the Wind (1960)

I would have to add Rhett Butler in "Gone with the wind"

I cite his realistic assessment of the South's chances when everyone else was in full Jingo mode, his refusal to kill Charles when challenged to do so, his blockade running, his regard for Belle when polite company would not accept her, his regard for nanny. That and I kinda like his sense of stoic humour. Also I can relate to his regard for an incredibly attractive, dark, slightly loopy, hard working, self-regarding woman with FAR too many dresses.

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I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

Whether his motivation is rational or not is certainly open for debate, but he never says he's doing it for the town. What he does say is it's his responsibility to stay because he helped put the outlaw away the first time. Also he knows the guy is going to start trouble, even if the town is content to evade that fact. So I concluded that it was about his integrity, that he had accepted the charge to protect the town and that job was not yet finished.

I think Howard Hawks' complaint that Kane running around to get help is a "rather silly thing to do" since in the end he won by himself, is ridiculous. Kane sought help because he knew the stakes. He wasn't looking to die for the town (especially since he'd just gotten married), he was looking to see that justice was done. But when he couldn't find help, he still stood his ground against 3 dangerous men and prevailed.

I agree with you, bborg. Let's not forget what the movie was about. Kane was already leaving the town: he just got married. The man he put in jail was let out on the same day as the marriage. The criminal, Miller, and his gang were coming after Kane to kill him. Kane was not defending the town! He was about to leave it. The townspeople urged Kane to leave. Kane didn't want to spend the rest of his life running: he had just gotten married. Kane stayed to defend himself!! Kane asked for help because it was the town's responsibility to defend him, as a citizen of the town. He was no longer the marshall. If I remember correctly, Kane put the badge back on when there was no one to defend him and after they all urged him to run away. The conflict was that after all the years of defending the town, Kane now had to defend himself. And the town did not want to help. Kane stood for integrity of the highest order: the courage to defend oneself in the face of death and overwhelming odds, and the confidence to know he was right.

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I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

Whether his motivation is rational or not is certainly open for debate, but he never says he's doing it for the town. What he does say is it's his responsibility to stay because he helped put the outlaw away the first time. Also he knows the guy is going to start trouble, even if the town is content to evade that fact. So I concluded that it was about his integrity, that he had accepted the charge to protect the town and that job was not yet finished.

I think Howard Hawks' complaint that Kane running around to get help is a "rather silly thing to do" since in the end he won by himself, is ridiculous. Kane sought help because he knew the stakes. He wasn't looking to die for the town (especially since he'd just gotten married), he was looking to see that justice was done. But when he couldn't find help, he still stood his ground against 3 dangerous men and prevailed.

I agree with you, bborg. Let's not forget what the movie was about. Kane was already leaving the town: he just got married. The man he put in jail was let out on the same day as the marriage. The criminal, Miller, and his gang were coming after Kane to kill him. Kane was not defending the town! He was about to leave it. The townspeople urged Kane to leave. Kane didn't want to spend the rest of his life running: he had just gotten married. Kane stayed to defend himself!! Kane asked for help because it was the town's responsibility to defend him, as a citizen of the town. He was no longer the marshall. If I remember correctly, Kane put the badge back on when there was no one to defend him and after they all urged him to run away. The conflict was that after all the years of defending the town, Kane now had to defend himself. And the town did not want to help. Kane stood for integrity of the highest order: the courage to defend oneself in the face of death and overwhelming odds, and the confidence to know he was right.

Well said, Paul. That's the High Noon I remember.

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I'd include:

V for Vendetta

We the Living

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I agree with you, bborg. Let's not forget what the movie was about. Kane was already leaving the town: he just got married. The man he put in jail was let out on the same day as the marriage. The criminal, Miller, and his gang were coming after Kane to kill him. Kane was not defending the town! He was about to leave it. The townspeople urged Kane to leave. Kane didn't want to spend the rest of his life running: he had just gotten married. Kane stayed to defend himself!! Kane asked for help because it was the town's responsibility to defend him, as a citizen of the town. He was no longer the marshall. If I remember correctly, Kane put the badge back on when there was no one to defend him and after they all urged him to run away. The conflict was that after all the years of defending the town, Kane now had to defend himself. And the town did not want to help. Kane stood for integrity of the highest order: the courage to defend oneself in the face of death and overwhelming odds, and the confidence to know he was right.

And one more point. Kane does not run around town asking everyone/anyone for help. He asked those whom he thought were his friends, people he had helped in the past, people he had known for years.

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Regarding High Noon:

Thank you, B. Royce, bborg, Arnold and RayK for your "support" of High Noon :lol: ! It's one of my three favorite westerns (out of the ones I've seen), the other two being Shane and The Magnificent Seven.

To Arnold: I thank you for the challenge to defend High Noon :D ! I assert that it is definitely in defense of the individual, especially since Kane has to stand alone against Frank Miller and his men (boy, I sure love that song: "Please don't forsake me, O my darlin'..."). But remember also that when Kane stops the carriage when first leaving the town, he tells his new bride "Don't you see, they're making me run." Fleeing is just what Frank Miller wants him to do. It is in Kane's highest self-interest to return to the town and fight: if he flees this challenge to his identity and integrity, what other challenges in life will he run from?

Also, thanks for mentioning The Winslow Boy and October Sky. I've seen October Sky, and I agree, it belongs on the list. I've not seen The Winslow Boy yet, but have wanted to for some time.

To Rose Lake: You've got some candidates on your list that I will add to mine, such as Educating Rita and The Sound of Music. I'm curious, however, about The Duellists, which I've seen, and thought was well-done. But why do you see it as a story about the value or importance of the individual?

P.S. To David T. McKee: Is your avatar a picture of Jude Law?

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Oops! I really get people confused in my head sometimes.

I listed RayK as one of the "supporters" of High Noon, and should have included Paul's Here. And I addressed Arnold as if he had expressed disfavour for High Noon. Must have been all that Mexico sun during the Arts Cruise.

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My picks are The Winslow Boy (I like the 1999 version), Shane, and Planet of the Apes (the 1968 version).

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I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

Whether his motivation is rational or not is certainly open for debate, but he never says he's doing it for the town. What he does say is it's his responsibility to stay because he helped put the outlaw away the first time. Also he knows the guy is going to start trouble, even if the town is content to evade that fact. So I concluded that it was about his integrity, that he had accepted the charge to protect the town and that job was not yet finished.

I think Howard Hawks' complaint that Kane running around to get help is a "rather silly thing to do" since in the end he won by himself, is ridiculous. Kane sought help because he knew the stakes. He wasn't looking to die for the town (especially since he'd just gotten married), he was looking to see that justice was done. But when he couldn't find help, he still stood his ground against 3 dangerous men and prevailed.

Exactly. When you have three thugs out to get you, why wouldn't you deputize others (who also have a stake in the outcome) to help you? That is what deputies are for. The fact that the others were appeasers and or cowards only serve to highlight the value that Kane puts on his integrity - he will not die a coward (listen to the song). He stands to lose even his marriage by his persistence, and if altruism were his motivation, why did he not go along with everyone else's wishes?

Additionally, trying to get the slant on the movie by bringing in the politics of the writer involves supposition, not examining the product under discussion.

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I agree with you, bborg. Let's not forget what the movie was about. Kane was already leaving the town: he just got married. The man he put in jail was let out on the same day as the marriage. The criminal, Miller, and his gang were coming after Kane to kill him. Kane was not defending the town! He was about to leave it. The townspeople urged Kane to leave. Kane didn't want to spend the rest of his life running: he had just gotten married. Kane stayed to defend himself!! Kane asked for help because it was the town's responsibility to defend him, as a citizen of the town. He was no longer the marshall. If I remember correctly, Kane put the badge back on when there was no one to defend him and after they all urged him to run away. The conflict was that after all the years of defending the town, Kane now had to defend himself. And the town did not want to help. Kane stood for integrity of the highest order: the courage to defend oneself in the face of death and overwhelming odds, and the confidence to know he was right.

And one more point. Kane does not run around town asking everyone/anyone for help. He asked those whom he thought were his friends, people he had helped in the past, people he had known for years.

Yeah, and they valued him so much that they were unwilling to help. :lol:

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I never for a moment suspected he was doing this for the town. I thought he was doing it for himself - his honour. Am I wrong, was his integrity an illusion, but altruism the reality?

Whether his motivation is rational or not is certainly open for debate, but he never says he's doing it for the town. What he does say is it's his responsibility to stay because he helped put the outlaw away the first time. Also he knows the guy is going to start trouble, even if the town is content to evade that fact. So I concluded that it was about his integrity, that he had accepted the charge to protect the town and that job was not yet finished.

I think Howard Hawks' complaint that Kane running around to get help is a "rather silly thing to do" since in the end he won by himself, is ridiculous. Kane sought help because he knew the stakes. He wasn't looking to die for the town (especially since he'd just gotten married), he was looking to see that justice was done. But when he couldn't find help, he still stood his ground against 3 dangerous men and prevailed.

Exactly. When you have three thugs out to get you, why wouldn't you deputize others (who also have a stake in the outcome) to help you? That is what deputies are for. The fact that the others were appeasers and or cowards only serve to highlight the value that Kane puts on his integrity - he will not die a coward (listen to the song). He stands to lose even his marriage by his persistence, and if altruism were his motivation, why did he not go along with everyone else's wishes?

Additionally, trying to get the slant on the movie by bringing in the politics of the writer involves supposition, not examining the product under discussion.

I have not stated that Will Kane was not defending himself and as a matter of fact I stated that he was honorable. I was stating that the townspeople that are supposed to be Will Kane's friends are unwilling to stand with him and in so doing do not choose him as a value worthy of defending.

And justice was already handed out to Frank Miller, remember he just got out of prison. So, what was left unfinished, as he had already arrested the man and the judge (Will's friend) had sent him to prison for his crime(s)? Will Kane's choice not to run so that he can retain his own integrity is not something he needed to include the members of the community in as Frank Miller was coming just for him.

Finally, I brought up the screenwriter because you asked whether you had misinterpreted the movie's message. So the fact that the message put forth came from a supposed communist I thought it might give insight into what was being given for us to contemplate. Either way, I am sure you and others will percieve the movie as you want to. But I do not think it is an integrated movie for the reasons I have already stated.

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P.S. To David T. McKee: Is your avatar a picture of Jude Law?

I have no idea - I just thought it looked cool. If you blow the picture up and look at it closely it quickly stops looking like a face - it is a weird effect. To me it represents "Deep Thought".

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And justice was already handed out to Frank Miller, remember he just got out of prison. So, what was left unfinished, as he had already arrested the man and the judge (Will's friend) had sent him to prison for his crime(s)? Will Kane's choice not to run so that he can retain his own integrity is not something he needed to include the members of the community in as Frank Miller was coming just for him.

Kane and the townspeople disagreed on this point. The townspeople thought with Kane gone, Miller wouldn't start any trouble. Kane stayed not only because he didn't want to be on the run but because he understood Miller was not going to settle down and behave, and all the progress that had been made since he was locked away would be undone. When Kane went to the Church to address the public, one man reflected that there was a time when women couldn't walk the streets. What I found so cowardly about the townsfolk was not that they were afraid to fight, but they were willing to evade the danger from this criminal because it was convenient for them not to have to face it. They actually convinced themselves that Kane, not Miller, was putting the town in danger. And that's why I admired Kane. He stayed and he fought because he was focused on reality, not his wishes, and he held his own judgment above the self-delusions of others.

I was also thinking about the result if he had decided to run. He could possibly have reached the next town, because he had a head start. And when he got there he could have appealed to the Sheriff there for protection. You mention that there was no need for him to involve the town. Well, why involve any other town? Given the situation, I don't see what other heroic action was possible.

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