Dmitri Tiomkin: High Noon (1952)

July 5, 2008

I rented the 1952 Stanley Kramer film, “High Noon” and discovered an old familiar song I thought was called “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling” which is actually called “High Noon” with lyrics by Ned Washington and music by Dmitri Tiomkin.

The theme from the opening phrase is used, and perhaps overused, like a leitmotiv throughout the film. The song is sung by an old famous singer of cowboy songs, Tex Ritter. I hate to point out that the performance of this song is fairly sloppy. Listen to the drum pattern. This part was probably played by a dutiful studio musician whose main job was to keep the beat. Add the pump organ (or whatever the accompanying instrument is) and Tex’s voice and you have the orchestration. The problem is that Tex has a hard time following the beat. The phrase structure of the song is fairly unusual. The eccentric second phrase probably threw him for a loop [or a lasso].

I love the middle section. Melodically, it taps into the drum rhythm of the opening and then finishes with something that nearly threatens becoming Schubert’s “March Militaire.” I suspect this was the main influence for the eccentric orchestration of Rufus Wainwright’s similar sleepy cowboy song, “Banks of the Wabash.”

The shootout at the end of the movie is sweet by today’s standards. The good guy (Gary Cooper) wins. Surprised?

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