High Noon

I recently watched the classic Western movie High_Noon_posterHigh Noon (1952). Despite my love for movies and an extensive collection, this was the first time that I had seen this particular film. It is amazing, and sometimes creepy, how the same themes repeat themselves throughout history, and how well old stories relate to current events.

For anyone who does not know the story, in the movie we have our protagonist, Will Kane, portrayed by Gary Cooper, who is the retiring marshal in the small town of Hadleyville in the New Mexico territory. He has just married Amy (Grace Kelly) a pacifist Quaker and is on his way out of town with his new bride when he gets word that a criminal he worked hard to put away, Frank Miller, has been freed on a technicality and is on his way back to town. Kane knows that Miller will terrorize the town and will likely come after him, as he had previously threatened to do. Feeling the duty of his position despite just retiring, Kane returns to the town to face Miller.

Kane seeks to put together a posse to stop Miller and his gang, but it quickly becomes apparent that this will not be easy. He apparently has been a tough marshal and has made as many enemies as friends in the town. His old deputy Pell (Lloyd Bridges) who Kane did not think was ready to be the new marshal tries to bribe Kane into giving him the marshal position, and when Kane refuses he quits in anger. The people in the saloon want nothing to do with him. The innkeeper is cheering against him. His previous allies are scared of Miller and fear for their lives. His friend Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan) pretends that he is not home and sends his wife to the door to lie to Kane, saying he is not there. The previous marshal says he is too old to fight and has arthritis. The people in the church think that if Kane will just leave town the problem may simmer down and somehow go away. The pastor claims piety and sets himself above the fray, saying he condemns all violence, although it is clear he knows that Kane is right.

All this time the clock is ticking towards noon. The train-whistle blows as Miller arrives and comes with his gang into town. Kane is left to fight by himself. He kills several gang members before being wounded himself. His new wife, who had been planning to leave on the train, runs back to find him and despite her pacifism, shoots another gang member. Miller takes her hostage, but she distracts him long enough for Kane to shoot him dead.

Finally the townspeople come out to find the gang and Miller dead. Kane throws his badge in the dirt and leaves with Amy as the credits roll.

So what does all of this have to do with our situation today? The parallels are obvious, if you choose to see them. Doctors are the townspeople. The ABIM/ABMS represent Frank Miller and the gang who have taken advantage of the townspeople (MOC). There are a few ‘Will Kanes’ out there like Wes Fisher who have taken a stand against the criminal wrong.

The question is who are you? Are you one of the people in the saloon who are siding with Miller’s gang? Are you a churchgoer who just wants Kane to go away and is hoping that Miller won’t continue to take advantage of the town? Are you the pastor who views himself above the fight and wants to pretend that he can go on doing his job while ignoring the wrong he sees? You can be Sam Fuller, Harvey Pell, or any of the others who run from the fight.

gary_cooper_high_noonOr are you Gary Cooper, who despite all of the odds and the forces against him, knows right from wrong and is willing to face the bad guys?

Your choice.