Old School Americana & Nostalgia


John Wayne Once Slammed This Classic Western as ‘Un-American’

John Wayne Once Slammed This Classic Western as ‘Un-American’

John Wayne was not a man to hold his opinions close to his chest all the time and he certainly made it known that he didn’t like one movie. Before going on about Wayne’s thoughts about this flick, it might be good to understand where he’s coming from.

He was a man who held conservative beliefs to his heart. This is especially true when it comes to presenting the American West.

Wayne’s ideas were not rooted in some sort of liberalism. Nope, not Wayne. He was a devout conservative. So, when he read and saw what was happening to this classic Western, then he pulled the trigger. Wayne didn’t think highly of High Noon starring Gary Cooper.

What were his problems with the movie? Let us count the ways. John Wayne said that High Noon is “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen.” Cooper and Grace Kelly star in this 1952 Western. Cooper plays Marshal Will Kane. He’s getting ready to step down from his position, and then focus on his wife and family.

John Wayne Had No Respect For ‘High Noon’ Character

But it doesn’t work out that way. Frank Miller, an outlaw, is on a train and headed for town. Kane cannot leave his role just yet, so he prepares to square off against Miller. Wayne felt like Kane was showing the ultimate sign of disrespect by taking off his badge and dropping it on the ground.

This happens at the end of High Noon, where Kane also steps on the badge. Wayne considered Kane’s actions as “un-American” and just maybe showing disrespect to those with badges on in public. This movie came out at a time in the United States when actors and directors faced the challenges of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. His McCarthyism made people become targets for Communist activities, whether they did anything or not.

The House Un-American Activities Committee blacklisted Carl Foreman, who wrote the screenplay for High Noon. As for Wayne, he just never felt like the story was believable. In an interview with Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert, he said, “If I’d been the marshal, I would have been so goddamned disgusted with those [expletive] that I would have just taken my wife and saddled up and rode out of there.”

‘The Duke’ Responds With ‘Rio Bravo’

One thing to note about Cooper’s Kane. He could have simply slipped out the door and wiped his hands clean of the situation. But he didn’t do that. Kane squared off with Miller. So, Wayne might have seen High Noon as he did but had a blind spot around Kane’s bravery.

Wayne wasn’t the only person who didn’t like High Noon too much…and for similar reasons. Director Howard Hawks didn’t feel too good about the movie. Wayne and Hawks put their heads together and came up with Rio Bravo. In this lead role, Wayne put his own stamp on the main character. He played him full of rugged Western ideals and a beacon of the American West. Rio Bravo was Wayne’s answer to High Noon.

Ironically, Western movie fans seem to find great things to enjoy in both movies. Wayne got to one-up High Noon, so he managed to make his point.