Saturday, August 09, 2014

John Cunningham. The Tin Star (Collier’s, December 4, 1947)

     John Cunningham. The Tin Star (Collier’s, December 4, 1947) The short story adapted for High Noon. As often happens, the movie retains very little of the original. In this case only three pieces remain:  the basic situation, Jordan, a released murderer returning to revenge himself on Doane, the marshal who arrested him; the marshal’s fatalistic acceptance of the coming fight; and Jordan’s arrival on the train. The rest is different. Toby, the deputy, wants Doane to leave. Doane is a widower, and his first encounter with Jordan occurs at the cemetery. Toby kills Jordan’s brother before the final fight, and kills Jordan while Doane is dying. Doane does not look for a posse. There’s no back story beyond the fact that Doane arrested Jordan, and Jordan wasn’t hanged. Doane tells Toby that being a law man is a thankless job, a plot & character point that’s given to the retired marshal in High Noon. The theme remains also: a man cannot run away from a fight, and must risk his life in order to destroy evil. That’s the essence of chivalric romance.
     The story itself is little more than a sketch, focussing entirely on Doane, his arthritis, his age, his fatalism, written in the usual pulp style. It’s quite effective, a good example of the quick-bite type of short story that magazines published before TV began to provide this type of light-weight entertainment. That Zinneman and his writers were able to extract its essence, add plausible variations and additions, and create a classic Western, demonstrates that Hollywood craft could rise to the level of art. The story is available online. I think it’s worth reading. **½

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