A new feature here on Humble Opinions! From time to time I’ll be looking at some older movies which may have escaped your notice but deserve wider exposure. We’ll start with my favorite Charles Bronson movie, From Noon Till Three.
This movie is not a Western, although it takes place in the American west in the late 1800s and does feature horses, bank robbers and guns. But it has none of the other trappings of a typical Western. No, this film is about loneliness, romanticism, zeitgeist and the beginnings of American pop culture. It is not a comedy but has some hilariously funny scenes. Beware, some slight spoilers ahead.
Charles Bronson is bank robber Graham Dorsey. While on the way to rob a bank in a small town, he has a nightmare about the job and makes an excuse to stay at an unsuspecting homestead while the rest of the gang goes on to do the job. The owner of the lush homestead is a beautiful widow named Amanda (Bronson’s real life wife, Jill Ireland). The gang says they’ll need three hours to do the job, so Bronson will be holed up there from noon till three.
Smitten with her beauty, Bronson, a cunning criminal, sees Amanda as the hopeless romantic she is. He starts a slow and effective seduction that turns into a love affair for the smitten Amanda. They become lovers and for a few hours, imagine how their lives together would play out. When news arrives of the bank gang being captured and waiting to be hung, Amanda sends Graham out to rescue his doomed comrades. Leaving, but with no intention of helping his former friends, Graham takes a wrong turn and is mistakenly thought dead.
Here’s where the fireworks start. Writing a tell-all book about their torrid three-hour love affair, Amanda becomes an international celebrity. The book is a runaway best seller. There are songs written, plays performed and the house where they dallied becomes a popular tourist attraction. When Dorsey learns of the situation, he returns to surprise Amanda with the fact that he is alive. Trouble is, Amanda remembers Graham Dorsey as a dark, handsome, six foot three warrior god (as he is portrayed in her book) and doesn’t believe Bronson is him! After some comical efforts, he manages to convince her. After that, he tries to convince the world as well, but they just won’t believe him. Everywhere he goes, he is laughed at, challenged to fight or accused of fraud. Graham Dorsey has been romanticized beyond recovery. Graham’s own friends don’t recognize him. Surprising a madam at a brothel who was once a close friend, she immediately has him thrown out as an imposter. As the bouncers toss him into the street, she shouts, “Graham Dorsey was six foot three and the handsomest man I ever met!”
Bronson’s attempt to prove to the world he is still alive, and his attempts to debunk the romance of the book the world has come to fall in love with, meet uproarious results and skew modern culture’s romantic exaggeration of criminals and romance stories. The ultimate fates of Amanda and Graham wrap up the story perfectly and make this a classic, but ultimately forgotten, film. Try it!
From Noon Till Three is available as a DVD from Netflix or here from Amazon. It’s cheap!