In an Autry Libraries blog posted July 5, 2011, the role of one of the greatest western movies ever made, HIGH NOON, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, is highlighted as helping in the fall of Poland, a fall that precipitated the end of the communist bloc.
It’s a remarkable story that clearly points out the power of a well-told western tale even in Poland, a land far removed from New Mexico Territory and the town of Hadleyville. The human values that appealed to an American audience in the 50s could still touch the heart of Poles who sought a better life for themselves and their families in 1989. The bravery of Will Kane, in the face of overwhelming odds, rang a deep note to those who faced an oppressive, ruthless rule in their own country.
“Cowboys over Communists” reminded me that the Westerns I loved so much as a youth often dealt with the harsh, cold realities of right and wrong and good and evil, and taught young impressionable kids like me virtues we have been unable to shake even in these troubled times, when those same virtues are often called into question if not under fire.
The values of most people in the world haven’t changed, but today they are often hard to find. If you love Westerns stand up for them, and for the values that made good Westerns great, just like Will Kane and Lech Walesa stood up for what they believed in.
John Putnam is the author of Hangtown Creek, a thrilling saga of the early California gold rush.