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'High' Time for a Remake

August 20, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Hollywood has tried to put a new spin on a legendary film, more often than not it pales in comparison to the original. That's especially true when TV attempts the classics. Just this year alone, new TV adaptations of such famous flicks as "The Spiral Staircase" and "Picnic" met with critical and audience ennui.

But the rather dismal track record hasn't stopped TBS from reworking the 1952 Western classic, "High Noon," which starred Gary Cooper in his Oscar-winning role as a moral sheriff who must face a group of outlaws alone when the town and his new wife (Grace Kelly) abandon him. Considered one of the greatest films ever made, "High Noon" was produced by Stanley Kramer, written by Carl Foreman, directed by Fred Zinnemann and featured the Oscar-winning title tune, "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')."

In the new version, which premieres Sunday, Tom Skerritt, of "Picket Fences" town sheriff fame, plays the stalwart lawman Will Kane; Susanna Thompson ("Once and Again") is his Quaker wife Amy; Maria Conchita Alonso is Helen Ramirez, Kane's former lover and the town's good-time gal; and Michael Madsen is the vile Frank Miller, who is arriving on the noon train to murder Kane.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 23, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Producer's name--The Sunday TV Times story on "High Noon" omitted the last name of co-executive producer Karen Sharpe Kramer.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 3, 2000 Home Edition TV Times Page 3 Television Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Karen Sharpe Kramer--In the Aug. 20 TV Times story on "High Noon," the last name of co-executive producer Karen Sharpe Kramer was inadvertently dropped.

Unlike the original black-and-white version, this "High Noon" is in color and was shot on location in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. The production, directed by Rod Hardy, is using Foreman's original script with new material penned by T.S. Cook. Karen Sharpe, the wife of Stanley Kramer, is co-executive producer.

Skerritt wasn't apprehensive about walking in Cooper's large shoes. "You just pay your respects to the original work and original performances of all of the people," says the actor, who is a big fan of the Cooper version.

"You just do it with what is in front of you and don't trap yourself into all the other stuff of, 'this has been done before' and 'this is a classic.' "

In fact, he points out, Shakespeare plays are constantly being revived for both theater and screen. "As you know screenplay and playwriting are quite different in the execution--there is generally a lot more content in the theater than there is in film. However, this really has a subconscious and a morality about it that's worth repeating to succeeding generations, which is why any classic is worth redoing as far as that is concerned."

Both Thompson and Alonso's characters have been fleshed out in this version and generally come across as stronger, more independent women. "I remember Rod saying something that if he had tried to keep [Amy] in the background like she was in the first film, he would be crucified now," Thompson offers. "It's true. For these times we can't just be pretty things attached to the arms [of a man] standing in the background."

The actress believes Amy leaves Kane after their wedding because she's in shock over the fact her husband has decided to stay in the town to shoot it out with Miller and his outlaw band. But then love conquers all and she returns during the crucial gun battle.

"She doesn't want to lose him," Thompson says. "I love the notion that no matter how rooted we are in morals and ethics that there are moments life gives us where sure things are questioned."

Australian-born director Hardy seems to have made a career stateside directing TV remakes, having helmed CBS' "The Yearling" and ABC's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

"I like interesting, good material," explains Hardy, who first saw "High Noon" as a young boy. Television in particular, he adds, is a "format where one can attempt not to copy an original film--because there is no point--but rather, create a challenge to pick up some written material and transform it into entertainment that would work for an audience at this time."

Hardy hopes audiences will try to rent the original "High Noon" after watching his version. "Carl Foreman wrote a great screenplay and Fred Zinnemann made a wonderful movie," he says. "It's a black-and-white picture and we know they end up shown either late at night or on very obscure channels. I think if people come to see [this], I am hoping they go back and look at the original classic. If we can return people to the classics, we can't be doing half bad."

*

"High Noon" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on TBS. The network has rated it TV-PG-V (may be unsuitable for children with special advisories for violence). The original "High Noon" airs Sunday at 11 a.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. on TCM.

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