For History and Civics Classes

SUBJECTS — U.S./The Frontier & the West, 1865 -1913 and 1945 – 1991 (the Red Scare); Cinema;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Marriage; Leadership; Courage;

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Citizenship.

AGE; 11+; No MPAA Rating;

Drama; 1952; 85 minutes; B & W. Available from Amazon.com.


One of the Best! This movie is on TWM’s short list of the best movies to supplement classes in United States History, High School Level.

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In this Western classic, an outlaw recently released from prison is on his way back to the town he had once terrorized. He intends to seek revenge against the marshal who had sent him to prison. His gang has reassembled and awaits his arrival on the noon train. The marshal, newly married and scheduled to leave town to begin a new life, must decide between staying to face his old adversary or keeping to his plans to leave town thereby relinquishing lifelong principles of standing up for what is right. But he cannot fight the outlaws alone. One by one everyone in town turns him away when he requests their assistance.


Selected Awards: 1953 Academy Awards: Best Actor(Cooper); Best Editing; Best Music; Best Song; 1953 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor (Cooper); Best Supporting Actress (Jurado); Best Score; Best Cinematography; 1953 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Zinneman); Best Screenplay. “High Noon” is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film. This film is ranked #33 on the American Film Institute’s List of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time (2006).

Featured Actors: Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, and Grace Kelly.

Director: Fred Zinneman.


This movie is an allegory criticizing the political and business leaders who did not resist the excesses of the Red-baiters, including Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Investigating committee and the House Un-American Activities Committee, during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is one of the few American movies in which the filmmakers had to disguise the political implications of their film in order to get it made. As such, the film itself is an artifact of American history. The movie is also an excellent addition to a list of films for students to view as homework, see TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

Reading the Enriched Student Handout provided with the Guide and responding to the questions contained in the handout will provide background and context to any study of American history during the post-World War II period and will lead students to think about the issues raised by the Red Scare.




Your child will have no problem understanding the ideas and conflicts in the story and may be interested in some of the background information that opens the film to another level of understanding in terms of its social criticism.


Note to Teachers: The following handout includes questions for students to answer before viewing the film. Some of the questions may require Internet research skills should the students be unaware of the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood blacklisters.

Enriched Student Handout — High Noon as an Artifact of History

High Noon was made in 1951 and 1952 when the Red Scare was at its peak. The power of the Red-baiters became so great that in the early 1950s anyone who dared criticize their methods became a target for investigation. As a result, the Hollywood studio owners would not permit any criticism of McCarthy, the HUAC or their associates. Any challenge to the tactics of the Red-baiters through the medium of film was driven underground. The few movies, such as High Noon, which raised issues relating to the Red-scare were disguised as being about other subjects. The technique of a masked protest was used more frequently by artists living under dictatorships, both Communist and fascist. However, the late 1940s and early 1950s were a uniquely unfortunate time in U.S. history.

To get the movie past the studio executives, the filmmakers used the genre of the Western, which was not known for political themes and which was displaced in time from the targets of their criticism. Their efforts were successful and the movie was made. When the film was shown to the public, many people saw the political message in the movie. Those on the right denounced it, while many others praised it. Very few films produced by Hollywood have had to disguise their meaning to ensure that the films would be made. High Noon is the best known example and, as such, has a special place in the history of cinema and of artistic expression in the United States.

Question 1: In what way does the threat of censorship in film raise issues of First Amendment freedoms?

During the filming of High Noon Carl Foreman, the screenwriter and associate producer, was required to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He testified that he had been a member of the Communist Party but had quit many years before because he disagreed with its policies. However, he refused to identify other people who had been members of the Communist Party or associated with left-wing political organizations or meetings because he believed that they had a First Amendment right of freedom of speech and association. Mr. Foreman was promptly blacklisted by the Hollywood studios and he was no longer permitted to work on the movie. His associate producer credit was taken away but his screenwriter credit remained. Because of the blacklist, Mr. Foreman could not find work in the U.S. and moved to London where he wrote scripts that were submitted to Hollywood studios under pseudonyms. With Michael Wilson, another blacklisted screenwriter, Mr. Foreman wrote the 1957 Academy award-winning screenplay for the movie The Bridge On the River Kwai. The script was submitted under the name of a Frenchman, Pierre Boulle, who was the author of the book from which the story was taken. Mr. Boulle did not write a word of the script.

In his own name, Mr. Foreman had a distinguished career in the film industry in England and was honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Mr. Foreman was “rehabilitated” and his screen credits restored in 1997. Unfortunately, it was too late for Mr. Foreman. He had died in 1984.

Question 2: Why would the British film industry allow Mr. Foreman to work but the American film industry would not?

The man who played the deputy, Lloyd Bridges, was also blacklisted and had trouble getting work in Hollywood for many years. Eventually, as the Red Scare abated, Mr. Bridges was able to overcome this problem and was featured in many television shows and movies.

Gary Cooper, the actor who played Will Kane, had very conservative political beliefs and had cooperated willingly with the HUAC in 1947. He is reported to have testified, “I have turned down quite a number of scripts because I thought they were tinged with Communistic ideas. It is hard to believe that Mr. Cooper was unaware of the political implications of the film. Most likely, by 1952, like many other Americans, Mr. Cooper realized that the Red-baiters had gone too far and needed to be stopped.

As in the worst days of the McCarthy period, some individuals behaved in a principled manner and refused to cooperate with the scare tactics of HUAC. In this story, the marshal represents such an individual; he is willing to stand up to wrongdoers. The criminals represent the McCarthyites who persecuted people whose beliefs are left of center, commonly referred to as liberal. The selectmen, the minister, and the judge stand for the leaders of U.S. society who failed to stop the excesses of the Red-baiters. Kane’s friends, who would not help him in the fight against the outlaws, represent people who deserted their friends when the persecutions came.

Question 3: Can you find any similarities between the Red Scare of 1946 to 1954 and the reaction of the United States and its citizens to the destruction of the World Trade Center by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001?

In terms of symbols used in the film to help illustrate theme, the name of the marshal, “Will Kane” is important. “Will” is short for William which means “resolute protector”. It may also be that using the shortened form of the name, rather than Bill, which is a more frequently used nickname for William, was meant to stress the fact that Will Kane is a man who makes his own destiny; he is a man of unshakeable will.

In the film, the judge and the deputy marshal simply abandon their posts. As public officials, they have a duty to stay and help the town resist the outlaws. The Judge could have organized townspeople to help Kane. The deputy’s obligation is to be with Kane in the fight. In the allegorical aspect of the story in terms of the Red Scare, the suggestion is that important political and governmental leaders abandon the principles of free thought and association that the U.S. purports to represent; they should have stood with those persecuted by HUAC and the red-baiters.

Moreover, Kane’s friend, Herb, who clearly represents those associates of the accused during the McCarthy hearings, will stand with the marshal only if others do as well. Thinking about his responsibility to his family, Herb is willing to take some risk, but not a lot. This understandable argument has a fallacy: if Kane is killed, the whole town, including Herb and his family, will be at the mercy of the outlaws. Herb’s problem is that if he is the only one to stand with Kane, he becomes a target for the outlaws and increases his personal risk. Out of fear, he abandons Kane just as many of the individuals unwilling to risk their income and their standing in the community abandoned those brought before HUAC.

Question 4: How might an informed public have worked to protect those individuals called before HUAC?

Another interesting aspect of the story deals with Kane’s wife who, before she gets off the train and goes to help her husband, insists on moral absolutes. She discovers that something more important than her long-held principle of nonviolence and, fortunately for Kane and for the town, Amy realizes that she must help her husband. One could argue that she is free to abandon principle for the sake of love because she is a woman; had a man made this decision he would lose his hero status. In the name of love, especially after the pleading of Amy, Will could have abandoned the town and moved on with his life; instead he stood on principle. More than any other character in the story, Amy develops and changes as the film’s climactic shoot-out approaches. At first, she is willing to give up her husband for her Quaker belief in nonviolence. At the end, she has chosen her husband over her beliefs, participated in a gun fight, killed a man and set up Kane’s fatal shot at Miller by clawing at Miller’s face. Amy’s change is not only a matter of character development, it’s an important part of the plot and a major contribution to the symbolic structure of the story and its theme. Amy is the only person to come to her husband’s assistance and her intervention turns the tide in the gunfight.

Question 5: When women have been candidates for high office, they have often been asked if they would be willing to send their own sons to war. Men are not asked this question. How do you think Amy would answer this question?

Aside from its thematic comparison to the McCarthy era, there are several lessons to be drawn from this story. One is best accessed by looking closely at Will Kane and how his problem is solved. Often, a specific aspect of character propels the protagonist to triumph over adversity and leads the viewer to a life lesson. Will Kane stays true to his principles even though it means that he will lose his wife and that he must face adversity alone and outnumbered and that he will probably be killed in the process. Despite the betrayals of the townspeople, he succeeds. Another theme is based on the character of Amy Kane who essentially suggests an opposing point of view. Her character first holds to the idea that an important principle such as nonviolence should not be sacrificed for love. However, by the end of the film, she is willing to abandon her principles in the name of love. Since the man she killed represented violence and had been terrorizing the town prior to Kane’s having arrested the gang’s leader, her shift in values is tolerable. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this story illustrates the idea that for evil to triumph, good men and women need only look the other way and do nothing to resist the evil. The gang in this story was defeated through luck. The town had the good fortune to have a marshal with the integrity of Will Kane. Everyone was lucky that Kane’s wife came through to help him at the crucial moment. However, it could easily have gone the other way. When this movie was made, in the depths of the Red Scare with people losing their jobs for their political beliefs and the country’s leaders doing nothing to stop the excesses of the Red-baiters, it looked as if the American people could permanently lose important freedoms. Thus, standing up for what is right and for those who are willing to risk so much in the name of what is right, was a vital commentary made by the film industry on the state of politics in the middle of the last century and is still an essential value to hold today.

Question 6. What movies have you seen that have been critical of a position taken by the U.S. government and that show important characters coming forward to protect the principles upon which the country is based?

[End of Worksheet]

Additional Helpful Background — The Red Scare of the Late 1940s and Early 1950s

The character of Will Kane is a symbol for those Americans who stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy and to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is also criticism by contrast of American political and business leaders, and every day Americans, who failed to support people who were targets of the Red-Baiters. Like the townspeople in “High Noon” most of the country stood by and kept silent, permitting McCarthyism to flourish, and demonstrating once again that all that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men and women to do nothing.

After the Second World War, as the Cold War with the Soviet Union took hold, Senator Joseph McCarthy, the HUAC and those associated with them used tactics of guilt by association and character assassination to persecute Americans who had left-wing political beliefs. Since that time, political tactics by which people attack their opponents using unfounded accusation and innuendo have gone by the name “McCarthyism”.

The McCarthyites said that they were trying to remove Communists and their sympathizers from positions of influence in society and government. However, the charges were usually undocumented and the assertions that the targets of the investigations lacked patriotism were almost always false. In reality, the Red-baiters, as they came to be called, were using the fear of Communism for their own political and economic gain by grossly exaggerating the influence of Communists in the U.S. In the process they ruined the careers and damaged the lives of many innocent Americans whose only offense was to disagree with the politics of the Red-baiters. (There were a few cases in which the charges turned out to be true. Perhaps the most celebrated example was Alger Hiss, a State Department official. When the records of the Soviet KGB were opened in the 1990s it was revealed that Hiss had actually been a Soviet spy.)

McCarthyism worked in the following manner. People who held left wing political beliefs were accused of being disloyal to the country. They were investigated and questioned about their past political associations. Some were required to appear before Congressional investigating committees. The investigations didn’t focus on what a person may or may not have done, but only on their political associations. The HUAC and McCarthy’s senate investigating subcommittee would require witnesses to identify people who belonged to various legal political organizations and name those who had attended left wing political meetings. Witnesses who gave names and disowned their former political associations would be deemed “rehabilitated.” Those who did not cooperate would be labeled as “Communist sympathizers” who were disloyal to the United States. Often the names of people who did not cooperate would be placed on a blacklist. They would lose their jobs and would not be able to find other work in their chosen occupation. It was not only membership in the Communist Party (which has never been illegal in the U.S.) but also association with certain labor unions, political organizations seeking better conditions for the poor or for immigrants, Civil Rights organizations, and fraternal and social organizations, that could result in a person being investigated and blacklisted.

Some people refused to testify before the HUAC, citing the right to free speech and political association guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The government prosecuted many for contempt of Congress. A few people went to prison. Some Red-baiters started charging companies a fee for investigating their employees. In this way, they came to have an economic as well as a political interest in keeping the Red Scare going.

The McCarthyites paid special attention to the movie industry. Their intimidating tactics caused the creation of a particularly notorious blacklist that prevented many talented people from working for decades. The movie studios caved in to the demands of the Red-baiters by enforcing the blacklist. The rancor caused by the McCarthyite investigations lasted for decades. In 1999, some 45 years after the Red Scare was over, there were angry protests when the Academy of Motion Picture Artists gave an award to the talented director, Elia Kazan. During the Red Scare Mr. Kazan had saved his job by giving testimony against his friends and former political associates. For more on Mr. Kazan and this dispute and on the Red Scare generally, see TWM’s Learning Guides to “The Crucible” and “On the Waterfront“.

President Truman, most members of Congress, and the heads of both political parties did not condemn the overreaching and oppressive tactics of McCarthy, the HUAC, and their associates. President Eisenhower didn’t do much better after he was elected in 1952. In 1954, McCarthy attacked the loyalty of soldiers in the U.S. Army, again using innuendo and unsubstantiated charges. In nationally televised hearings, McCarthy’s brutal, irresponsible and dishonest tactics were exposed to the nation. The American people turned against him; McCarthy was later censured by the U.S. Senate and died in disgrace.

Martin Niemoeller, a German Lutheran pastor who lived during the Second World War gave a famous quote about the importance of protecting the rights of others.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

See Actor Gary Cooper: Testimony to House Un-American Activities Committee. It is hard to believe that Mr. Cooper was unaware of the political implications of the film. Most likely, by 1952, like many other Americans, Mr. Cooper realized that the Red-baiters had gone too far and needed to be stopped.

This movie was inspired by a short story “The Tin Star” by John W. Cunningham. The story is much different than the film. The story is currently published in A Century of Great Western Stories: An Anthology of Western Fiction edited by John Jakes. Many of the stories in this anthology are excellent.

There are many documentaries on the Red Scare and Senator Joseph McCarthy. They include: “The Edward R. Murrow: The McCarthy Years” and “Point of Order”. “Good Night and Good Luck!” is an excellent fictional treatment.


After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1. This movie takes the position that the townspeople were wrong in failing to stand up with Kane to face down the Miller gang despite the fact that they would have been putting their lives in danger in order to help the marshal? What did the Townspeople owe to Will Kane?

Suggested Response:

In addition, the townspeople had an obligation of loyalty to Kane as their friend and a man who put himself at risk to clean up the town. As to the public officials such as the judge, the selectmen, and the deputy marshal, the responsibilities of their office required that they oppose the Miller gang. In addition, if the townspeople had stood together, the risk to any one of them would have been greatly reduced.

2. Edmund Burke, a British statesman and philosopher, said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” How does this concept apply to the story told by this movie?

Suggested Response:

High Noon is a clear example of this. It was only through Kane’s strength of character, luck and the intervention of his wife that the town did not suffer. The happy ending is fortuitous. The Miller gang should have made short work of Kane and then they would have been free to terrorize the town. In the real world of politics and government, lucky endings are rare. People need to be politically active to retain their rights.

3. Kane said, “I’m the same person, with or without this badge.” What do you think about this statement and how does it relate to the theme of the film?

Suggested Response:

One doesn’t resist evil only if he or she is a public official charged with that duty. A person resists evil because, in the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

4. Before Miller arrives, his gang is at the railway station waiting for him. Kane is encouraged by one of the townspeople to lock them up before Miller arrives. Kane responds that they hadn’t done anything wrong as of that point and he had no power to arrest them. How does this response from Kane fit into the values he holds?

Suggested Response:

Kane was clearly right. People cannot be arrested and imprisoned without due process of law. If the police act lawlessly, then no one will be safe. In addition, to follow this suggestion, Kane would be betraying his own ethics.

Additional Discussion Questions.

1. Just as many townspeople in Hadleyville thought that they could live with the Miller gang, many people in the U.S., during the late 1940s and early 1950s, believed that they could live with the Red-baiters. After all, most people were not targets of the investigations. In addition, people were afraid to speak out against the false accusations and guilt by association used by the McCarthyites; objecting to the tactics of the Red-baiters was a quick way to get on a blacklist. Could the United States have kept the civil liberties of its citizens if people had learned to “live with” McCarthy and the Red-baiters? Justify your conclusion.

Suggested Response:

If the civil liberties of one person are compromised, it is easier to take away the civil liberties of the next person and eventually the liberties of everyone. This is expressed forcefully in the famous quote from Martin Niemoeller.

2. Why isn’t guilt by association a valid way to make judgments about people?

Suggested Response:

Guilt by association is a logical fallacy which states that if, in a particular group of things or people, some of them have an attribute, then everyone in the group must have the same attribute. In the context of the Red Scares, the argument went that because some Communists were not patriotic then anyone who was a Communist or who associated with Communists in any political endeavor, such as supporting a minimum wage for workers or universal health care for all citizens, was also unpatriotic. This is patently untrue, but it is what McCarthy and the redbaiters had convinced many people. Note that a person’s associations may be reason for some suspicion and may give an investigator an lead that needs to be followed up, but no conclusion can logically be drawn from mere association. But it is never proof of anything.

Now, it is true that there may be particular groups of things or people which all have the same attribute. However, that is not because of the mere fact of association. It must be due to some other factor.

3. In the movie, each of the townspeople has a reason for doing nothing to help Kane. Describe some of the reasons. Are any of them valid? Suggested Response:

  • One of the selectman argues that a gunfight between Kane and the Miller gang would spoil the town’s reputation as a peaceful place in which to live and do business. This is short term thinking. Of course, there will be conflict as the town resists an invasion by criminals, but in the long run the town will be more peaceful without the criminals than with them.
  • The deputy marshal allows his anger at Kane to govern his conduct, rather than fulfilling his duties as a public servant. The deputy as been paid to protect the town in good times and in bad. Turning in his badge just before the fight with the Miller gang is an evasion of responsibility.
  • The judge allows fear to overcome his obligations. His situation is the same as that of the deputy; he is paid to be the judge in the good time and in the bad as well. In addition, if Miller had killed Kane, the judge would have lived in fear the rest of his life, worried that Miller would come after him.
  • Some of the people in the church claim that Kane’s fight with Miller is a personal dispute and that Kane is worried that Miller will pursue him into his new life Their point begs the question. People who do the right thing can do it for a number of reasons. Just because they gain an advantage for doing the right thing doesn’t mean that it is the wrong thing to do. The important point is that the town will be better off if Miller and his gang are stopped. These people are just evading responsibility with a specious argument.
  • Then there is the friend who states that he will help Kane only if others stand with the marshal, but that he will not be the only one to be at Kane’s side. He states that he has a responsibility to his family. There is some force to his point, but just about everyone has someone for whom they are responsible. By this logic, no one would ever agree to be the first to stand with anyone else in a difficult situation. In addition, this friend and his family would not be safe in a town run by outlaws. What this friend should do is find others to help Kane.
  • Kane’s mentor, the former marshal, claims that his arthritis would make him a liability in a gun fight. It may be true that his arthritis would hamper his effectiveness, but Kane asks for his support for a reason. The old man’s support might rally others and his lack of support may be seen as a signal to others that they can remain on the sidelines.
  • Mrs. Ramirez does help Kane by encouraging Amy to stand by her new husband. However, Mrs. Ramirez refuses to help Kane directly. Perhaps it’s because she was still angry with Kane for leaving her. But that’s no reason to let the man die. Mrs. Ramirez claims that she owes nothing to the Hadleyville community because it never did anything for her. That is only partially true, because she has made money on her business interests in the town, even if she has had to disguise some of them. But who will stop Miller from coming after Mrs. Ramirez if Kane is killed?

All of the excuses that people in Hadleyville used to avoid helping Kane are in one way or another self-serving and short sighted. All of them evade one type or responsibility or another. See the quotation from Martin Niemoeller.

5. Was Kane popular with everyone in town? What does this tell us about the Red Scare?

Suggested Response:

Remember that there were friends of the outlaws in the bar and the hotel clerk didn’t like Kane at all. He remarked to Mrs. Kane that it was time for Kane to get his comeuppance. There was a lot of support in the country for the Red-baiters and many people didn’t understand the problems with the tactics of guilt by association and smear by innuendo.

6. Kane’s mentor, the former sheriff said, “People have to talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it.” What did he mean by this?

Suggested Response:

Law and order is an abstraction and people have to have some imagination to understand that it will yield benefits in the future. Very often people wait until someone is hurt or there is some tragedy before they are motivated to act.



1. Did Amy Kane do the right thing in abandoning her belief in nonviolence to help her husband?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct answer to this question. Clearly, the movie takes this position, but a strong answer will note that marriage should be a partnership, a give and take, in which the principles of each partners should be respected. One partner should not be required to sacrifice core beliefs. Then again, married people need to support one another. Perhaps these people shouldn’t have gotten married.


2. What do you think of Will Kane’s leadership skills?

Suggested Response:

They were pretty poor. He didn’t understand the townspeople well enough to know how to motivate them.

3. What does a good leader do when there is a job that needs to be done and the troops will not follow?

Suggested Response:

He must find a way to motivate them. This is perhaps the hardest part of leadership. Sometimes, if he can’t motivate his people, he must go on alone, as did Will Kane.


4. Will Kane was afraid. Did this mean he lacked courage?

Suggested Response:

No. Courage is doing something dangerous when you are afraid. Doing something just because it is dangerous is simply stupid. People who are about to enter into a dangerous course of action need to make sure that the values served by the course of action outweigh the values that will be sacrificed by undergoing the danger. Kane made the decision that the risk of death (i.e. the risk of sacrificing the value of life) was outweighed by the importance of the value of upholding the law and protecting what he had fought for years to create, a town safe from this band of criminals. In addition, Kane doubted that leaving town was a practical solution. He thought that the criminals would come after him wherever he went and facing them in town, as he thought at the time, the backing of the townspeople, was the safer course of action. This leads to the next question.

5. Was Will Kane acting courageously in staying in town and facing the gang? Answer this question in light of the following facts: Miller had a grudge against Kane and would have probably tried to catch up with Kane had Kane tried to leave town. In that event, Miller and his gang would have had the advantage of surprise. When he decided to fight the outlaws in the town, Kane thought he would improve his chances of surviving, especially since, initially, he expected the townspeople to stand by him.

Suggested Response:

It always takes courage to face death directly. Kane was courageous to return to fight Miller and Kane acted courageously when he didn’t leave after he found out that the townspeople wouldn’t stand by him. The fact that Will Kane benefited from his decision to stay and fight Miller in the town, didn’t make his decision any less courageous.



(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

See questions 1, 2 and 4 above, relating to the use of this movie in U.S. History and Government classes.


(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

See questions relating to the use of this movie in U.S. History and Government classes. Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1. Research the individuals and organizations, both political and artistic, who stood up against the excesses of the Red-baiters and HUAC. In an expository essay, explain the role of these people and groups in bringing a close to the threats to freedom from the anti-communist hysteria.

2. Research and prepare a power point presentation on the loss of jobs, artistic freedom and film merit that occurred during the Red Scare. Look deeply into the film industry and in other outlets for artists, such as music and painting, for evidence of conformity and resistance to the McCarthy years.

3. Write an opinion essay on the concept of limits to freedom of expression that may be found in film, music, writing or other art forms. Relate the problems certain artists have faced that may have restrained freedom of expression.

Additional Assignments.

  • Students can write an essay relating to any of the Discussion Questions.
  • Students can write an essay comparing this film to “Good Night and Good Luck” or any of the other films about the Red Scare.
  • Students can research and write an essay about the Red Scare, about the effect of the Red Scare on Carl Foreman, about the career of Senator Joseph McCarthy or about the legacy of the House Un
  • American Activities Committee.

See also, Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


This movie is based on a short story “The Tin Star” by John W. Cunningham. This story is currently published in the book A Century of Great Western Stories: An Anthology of Western Fiction edited by John Jakes, 2000, A Forge Book, New York. See also The Crucible by Arthur Miller.



See other films in the U.S. History and Culture section of the Subject Matter Index under the topic The Frontier and the West. For other movies dealing with some extent with Red Scares, see “Modern Times“, “The Crucible“, and “The Grapes of Wrath“. For other films analyzed according to the myths of the Western genre, see “The Searchers” and “The Shootist“.



Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.


In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

  • The American Western by Stephen McVeigh, 2007, Edinburgh University Press; note TWM disagrees with much of the analysis of “High Noon” in this book;
  • Encyclopædia Britannica articles on “Joseph R. McCarthy,” “United States” [Accessed May 27, 2002]

Written by James Frieden and Mary RedClay.

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