The value of one man's taking a stand has never been more thrillingly depicted than in Fred Zinnemann's 1952 High Noon, airing at 6:30 p.m. on TCM. Gary Cooper won his second Best Actor Oscar for playing laconic lawman Will Kane, who starts off the film about to marry the lovely Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly, in one of her first roles) and settle down to a life of Quaker tranquillity, and ends it going up against a pack of bloodthirsty outlaws practically by himself.
Cooper, of course, played every one of his characters laconic, a constant in his career that didn't always work. But his style was perfect for Marshal Kane, a man of principles who not only feels duty-bound to uphold them, but resents having to keep explaining why they're so important. It's hard to figure out what bothers him more, that Jack Colby, the gunfighter he once sent to prison, is coming to town on the noon train, ready to kill him, or that the whole town wishes Kane would simply turn tail and run.
Besides Cooper's award, High Noon won three Oscars, for film editing, Dimitri Tiomkin's score and the song "High Noon" (better known by its first line, "Do not forsake me, oh, my darlin' "), sung by Tex Ritter. The film would have won Best Picture, except that Oscar voters felt compelled to honor veteran director Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, on the theory that this would be the last film of his storied career. (It wasn't; four years later, he directed Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments).
Also on TV today: Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn and Baltimore's own Mario in Freedom Writers, 2:15 p.m. on HBO; John Wayne in Hondo, 3 p.m. on AMC; and Paul Henreid and Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, 8 p.m. on TCM (kicking off a four-film Henreid festival that concludes at 3:30 a.m. with Casablanca).