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FredCDobbs

Watch the clocks in "High Noon"

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They are synchronized with the flow of the movie.

 

They started at about 10:30 AM.

 

Each scene with a clock in it shows the "real time" in the drama. Someone went to a lot of trouble to synchronize all the clocks in the different scenes.

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{quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:} Someone went to a lot of trouble to synchronize all the clocks in the different scenes.{quote}

 

I seem to recall that it wasn't part of Carl foreman's script, or the original concept of the film, but as the movie came together Zinnemann and Stanley Kramer began to realize that the story needed to be told in real time for maximum impact.

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"Someone went to a lot of trouble to synchronize all the clocks in the different scenes."

 

Wow. I didn't really look, but it seems to me it must have been shot in sequence and at least closely edited as it was being made. That is definitely some trouble to go through.....setting hands before the start of scenes, etc.

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I'm 99% sure that this was addressed in one of the audio commentaries to the movie, either on the DVD or laserdisc. Sorry, however, because I do not remember all the details.

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One of the first articles I ever read about film editors was in the old AFI magazine. In it's original format (beginning in the early 1970s and came as part of your membership to the AFI), it was a terrific magazine seriously devoted to film.

 

There was an article in one of those early editions about Elmo Williams, the editor on *High Noon* and the writer of the article credited Williams for the idea of cutting away to the clock to build tension as the film went on.

 

If that story is true, then the clocks were likely filmed after principal photography had been completed.

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"If that story is true, then the clocks were likely filmed after principal photography had been completed."

 

That's why I'm sorry I didn't pay that much attention. I would have been looking for "complete shots", ie, scenes where the clock and actors are involved, doing more than "headshots" and "reaction shots". Were all the clock shots "cutaways"?

Looks like I might have to get that DVD. I've just been putting it off. Maybe it's time!

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Actually, it was neither of them. The idea came from film editor Elmo Williams after a disastrous sneak preview where the audience thought the film too slow. Zinnemann shot the footage of the clock, Williams cut it into the film and the rest is movie history. Just goes to show the value of a good film editor and a director who is open to suggestions.

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>If that story is true, then the clocks were likely filmed after principal photography had been completed.

 

The clocks I'm talking about are the clocks in the background of the scenes with people. The wedding scene, the train station scene (the clock inside the station, behind the ticket man), the hotel clock, the clock in the sheriff's office, the clock in Helen Ram?rez's room, and other clocks in buildings around town with people acting in the foreground.

 

These clocks had to be set just before the scenes were shot. The timeline had to be written into the script, and the clocks had to be set just before filming began. If they were real working clocks, they had to be reset for each take of the same scene. Even the clocks that were slightly out of focus in the background showed the correct time.

 

The wedding started at about 10:30 and the train arrived at 12 noon. Every clock in the film, in the background with people acting in the foreground, showed the correct sequence of time that transpired during the events in the movie.

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>Were all the clock shots "cutaways"?

 

No, that's my whole point. Most of the clocks were in the background during the live action of the people. I think it was only the close-ups of the big clock in the Sheriff's office that were shot in close-up. But all the other clocks had their times set just before each scene was shot, and the times had to be written into the script. This is the only film I've ever seen in which this has been done.

 

If the shots had all been cutaways and if all the clock scenes been close-ups, that wouldn't have been amazing at all and I wouldn't have started this thread.

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>Actually, it was neither of them. The idea came from film editor Elmo Williams after a disastrous sneak preview where the audience thought the film too slow. Zinnemann shot the footage of the clock, Williams cut it into the film and the rest is movie history.

 

I'm not talking about the close-ups of the big clock. I'm talking about the clocks in the background in the scenes with the real people acting in the foreground.

 

Those background clocks had to be set before each scene was shot with the clocks showing in the background, and the film had to be paced so that the time flow seemed realistic and in real-time.

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>Wow. I didn't really look, but it seems to me it must have been shot in sequence and at least closely edited as it was being made. That is definitely some trouble to go through.....setting hands before the start of scenes, etc.

 

High Noon is coming up again Saturday (Tomorrow at 6:30 pm Eastern time).

 

Try to watch for all the clocks in the background of the scenes that show people inside buildings. The clocks are all set to the proper real time in the movie, as the movie transpires. They start off at the wedding at about 10:30 AM, then they gradually move forward in time in about 5 to 10 minute jumps during many of the next scenes inside various rooms, such as at the train station, the hotel, and in various other rooms, as the film progresses toward the train arrival time at noon, and this is done with people acting in the foreground.

 

This is difficult to arrange in a film, especially since some of the scenes might have several different takes, and some of the scenes might require half a day or more to shoot.

 

I suspect that these were special "prop clocks" that had moving pendulums, but I'll bet the hands didn't move at all. That way the hands could be set for specific times and would not have to be re-set even if an indoor scene took all day to shoot. But watch the wedding scene clock in the background. It tends to move a couple of minutes during the course of the wedding.

 

This is done so well in this film, you can actually anticipate about what time will be showing on the next clock we see. You can estimate about how much time it will take Cooper to walk from one place to another, then the next time we see a clock in the background, that amount of time will have transpired.

 

This is completely different from shooting close-ups of clocks. Of course close-ups can be shot at any time and then added into the film as a "cutaway" at the appropriate time. But when the live action is taking place in the foreground, it is very difficult to arrange to have the background clocks read the right time.

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Awesome observation, Fred. I suspect you are right about the fake clocks with working pendulums.... otherwise it would be a nightmare to make that movie. You would need to hire a guy just to make sure the clocks were reset after each take... ;)

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I believe this was intentional. Not any sort of great 'attention to detail'...but a deliberate way of helping the audience to keep track of the time until that train came in and the bad guys arrived.

 

It was a way of illustrating just how little time Will Kane had to prepare...and how little time it took the cowardly townfolk to hide under their beds.

 

Even when I watched this film for the first time, I noticed the clocks and kept track of how much time he had left. It was a vehicle for building the tension, IMO.

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Yoo Hoo!

 

Ok, I finally found my 10 year old tape of the movie.

 

In the first scene of the wedding, near the beginning of the movie, the clock way in the background in the room reads 10:30.

 

After the judge starts the ceremony and says a few words, we see a shot of the three outlaws riding into town. That runs a little while, then we see a scene inside the barber shop, and the clock in the background reads 10:33. The barber and a customer talk a little.

 

We then see the outlaws ride out to the train station. That takes a little while, and the first scene of the ticketmaster shows his clock on the wall in the background and it reads 10:35.

 

There is some conversation at the train station with the outlaws, then we see the ticketmaster run out the back door toward town, and then the film cuts back to the wedding scene and the judge. The camera pans briefly to the left, and the clock in the background can be seen, but it's a little out of focus and I can't tell what time it reads.

 

Then Cooper takes Kelly into the back room to kiss her. Then the group at the wedding opens the door and come in, and they all talk a while, then they move back into the front room and the trainmaster comes running in with a telegram saying that Frank Miller has been pardoned, and he announces that the outlaws are in town and he says they are waiting for the noon train.

 

Cooper says "The noon train" and he looks up at the clock. Then we see a close-up of the clock and it reads 10:40.

 

Then Coop and Kelly get in their buckboard and ride out of town. The scene cuts to Katy Jurado and Lloyd Bridges in her room. They talk a while. Then we see Coop and Kelly riding outside of town, then they stop and turn around and go back into town. All of this takes a little time.

 

Then we see another scene inside the barber shop, and in the background the clock reads 10:50.

 

Ok, out of these 5 scenes where a clock can be clearly seen, 4 of them had people in them and acting going on, and the clocks had to be set and timed just right by the script. The one close-up scene of the clock was a "cutaway", which could have been shot later or at any time and then inserted into the movie by editing.

 

Then the scene cuts to the Sheriff's office where Kelly begs Cooper to not stay in town. They talk a little then he looks up at the clock and it reads 10:51. This is also a cutaway close-up of the clock.

 

Cooper and Kelly talk a little more, and then we see the clock in the background, out of focus, over his shoulder. It looks like it reads 10:52.

 

She gets in the buckboard and rides off, while the judge comes in to the Sheriff's office. He packs his books and flag and lectures Cooper. They argue a little. The scene cuts to Jurado and Bridges again, in her room, and the clock in the background reads 10:54.

 

Some time passes, Bridges leaves her room, the judge talks to Cooper in front of the Sheriff's office then leaves. Coop talks to a boy and sends him on an errand. Bridges arrives at the Sheriff's office and goes inside with Cooper. They argue for a few minutes, then Cooper turns and looks up at the clock, as the camera pans to the clock, which reads 11:02.

 

Bridges goes back to Jurado's room and they argue a little. He leaves, and she turns and looks at her clock, which reads 11:05.

 

Kelly arrives at the hotel and sits in the lobby. There are a few quick scenes inside the church. Then we go back to the Sheriff's office where Cooper looks up at the clock, and in a close-up cutaway the clock reads 11:07

 

Several other scenes and we're back in the hotel lobby again. Cooper walks in, talks briefly to Kelly, then goes upstairs to see Jurado, talks a while with her, then he comes down the stairs. As he walks down into the lobby, we see the hotel clerk setting the big grandfather clock at the turn in the stairs, by matching it's time to the time on his pocketwatch. He sets the grandfather clock's minute hand to 11:15.

 

This is all I've timed so far.

 

-----------------------

 

Ok, here's the rest of it:

 

After the hotel clerk sets his big clock, there are a few more scenes, then a long scene in the saloon. Then a close-up of the Sheriff's office clock, which reads 11:17. Then a shot of Cooper entering the office.

 

Cooper walks to the saloon. There is a small wall clock in the background. It's difficult to read its time, but it looks to me like maybe 11:20. There is a second wall clock in the saloon, but I can't see what the minute hand is set on. It could be 11:20.

 

Coop walks to Harry Morgan's house. There is a small clock on the wall inside the house. Looks like it could read about 11:25.

 

Coop walks to the church, talks for a while, then walks to Lon Chaney Jr.'s house. There is a small clock on the wall, but I can't read the hands. Coop leaves the house and Chaney looks up at his clock, but we can't see it. However, the scene cuts to a close-up of a wall clock back at the hotel, and it reads 11:42 or 11:43.

 

Several more scenes, then we're back at the barber shop, where the clock reads 11:50. A few more scenes and we're back at the Sheriff's office where the clock in the background reads 11:56.

 

Cooper begins writing out his will. A couple of short scenes at the train station, then back to the Sheriff's office. Coop looks up at the clock and in a close-up cutaway it reads 11:57. He writes more of his will, then he looks up at the clock again, and in a close-up cutaway it reads 11:58.

 

Then the wonderful montage of the people around town looking sad while the clock-music plays in the background. In a cutaway close-up clock scene at the hotel the clock reads 11:59. Back at the Sheriff's office we see a close-up pan up the clock and it reads 12 noon. Shortly thereafter we hear the train whistle.

 

Hmm.... seems to me that in the version I saw a few days ago on TCM, we can see the minute hand on that last clock scene jump over from 11:59 to 12 noon. But it's not on the copy I have, which I taped off of TCM about 10 years ago.

 

Anyway, maybe someone else can check out all these scenes and times to be sure I'm correct.

 

Elmo Williams got the main credit for Editor on this film, but he shared an Oscar for this film with co-editor Harry W. Gerstad.

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Wonderful job Fred describing all the timing with the scenes. *High Noon* is one of my very favorite films and it?s really a shame it didn?t win Best Picture for ?52 as it such a well crafted and acted film.

 

In the script there are notes about the timing of the clocks and like you have explained they were always intended to be a part of the film. I believe what was changed after the preview screenings was to include more refrains from the theme song throughout the film and not more shots of clocks as they were already in there.

 

This was an independently made film (distributed by United Artists) and they only had one month to shoot it. It?s really impressive that in such a short span of time they were able to make such a powerful and lasting film, a true classic. With the complex timing of the clocks and action, it would have been easy to get messed up somewhere and have something be off but there don?t seem to be any continuity issues at least as far as the clocks go. I have noticed a couple things though like Gary putting down his hat when he goes to visit Katy Jurado, then he?s holding it again when it should still be sitting on the chair. Also after the children leave the church we see a few shots without them and then they are back again. All movies have things like this though and these aren?t really that bad and it took several viewings before I noticed them.

 

There is also another thing that seems to be a continuity issue but there is an explanation for it. When Gary goes into the saloon to raise a posse one of the men tells him he only has two deputies now. Originally there was another deputy character who was out of town at the time and they did film a couple scenes with him but then they cut them out and just didn?t have the time or money to go back and reshoot that scene. This was explained in the doc on the newest dvd release of the film.

 

Here?s a link to it and this is definitely the version everyone should have of this one and it has some wonderful extras and the print is absolutely flawless.

 

http://www.amazon.com/High-Noon-Two-Disc-Ultimate-Collectors/dp/B0016MLIKM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1229012351&sr=8-2

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Ah, Mr. Osborne finally mentioned the fact that all the clocks in this movie are set to match the true time of the events taking place, and the events take place in real time.

 

See my detailed post about the clock times, down below......

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I like people who pays attention to detail. Well the movie is called "High Noon" and *everyone* would be watching the clocks as noon approaches. If someone made the mistake of not synchonizing the clocks then someone would have noticed and it would have been on the list of Hollywood bloopers.

 

Message was edited by: hamradio (to be on the safe side)

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