‘High Noon’ at the Orpheum

“Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.” What happens at “High Noon?”

Cinema history often claims that The Great Train Robbery is the first American story- driven film. Since that time Western movies have become an important genre. From hundreds of silent Western films (with Bronco Billy Anderson, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Iowa’s Raymond Hatton) to talkies, color films, Cinemascope, Cinerama, 3-D films and Imax movies, Westerns have continued to be a part of the American cultural scene.

Many Western superstars, television stars, and “B” movie stars have Iowa connections. Everyone knows John Wayne was born in Winterset, Raymond Hatton (over 330 films to his name) was born in Red Oak, Bob Baker was from Forest City, Neville Brand from Griswold, Jimmy Ellison was born in Guthrie Center, MacDonald Carey in Sioux City and many more. Some female Western stars with an Iowa connection are Julie Adams, born in Waterloo, Peggy Moran and Beth Marion from Clinton, Donna Reed from Denison, Iris Meredith born in Sioux City and several more. All of these stars have been part of the Western genre in films.

This week’s film at the Orpheum stars Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. Cooper also has an Iowa connection. He once came from his home state of Montana to attend Iowa College in Grinnell. Both Cooper and Kelly were big stars in Hollywood at the time “High Noon” was filmed. The film won Gary Cooper one of three Academy Awards. Two awards were for Best Actor (High Noon and Sergeant York) and his second award was for Lifetime Achievement. Cooper also won a Golden Globe for his “High Noon” role.

Grace Kelly was a beautiful Irish-American actress who oozed style and class. Her role in “High Noon” was a departure from her best-known films. She really became a household name under the tutelage of Alfred Hitchcock in “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder” and “To Catch a Thief.” Cooper was almost 20 years older than Kelly at the time of the filming, but that’s Hollywood. Kelly later married Prince Rainier, of Monaco, and left show business.

“High Noon” is considered the first of the “adult” Westerns. That doesn’t mean it has adult content, like today’s films. It simply means it was different from the typical “shoot’um up” of the Saturday matinee. “High Noon” dealt more honestly with courage, commitment and bravery than any film before it. It reflects on the some of the best and worst of early America.

Strap on your six-gun and check out “High Noon” this weekend at the Orpheum.

Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out the gallery and exhibit hall that features Iowa stage and film memorabilia and information. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit www.orpheumcenter.com

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.