A WESTERN set in the 1800s would seem to have little or nothing in common with a Christmas movie set in the 1940s. One is about a dangerous outlaw seeking revenge on the sheriff who sent him to jail. And the other is about an angel getting his wings. So I would have thought up until last Monday night. That’s when I saw–for only the second time in my life–HIGH NOON, the 1951 Fred Zinnemann classic, and began comparing the two films (as well as realizing I was surely not the first moviegoer to do so).
Maybe it was the appearance of character actor Thomas Mitchell (playing a trusted friend in both films) early on that made me think of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Or maybe it was seeing a happy couple having their wedding day abruptly interrupted. In NOON’s case, the imminent run-in with a dangerous outlaw; in LIFE’s case, a dangerous run on George Bailey’s father’s bank. A curious coincidence. But then there are other similarities–some more obvious than others–between the two.
The hero is an American everyman. A man with ideals, character, and dreams–dreams of romance with a lovely, wholesome woman (Grace Kelly–a Quaker; and Donna Reed), unhappy with his life in the small town.