This was the title tune for the movie High Noon, released in 1952 and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. In the film, Cooper plays a marshall who finds out that a man he put in prison has been released, and is arriving at high noon (with his posse) to kill him. Kelly, playing Cooper's wife, wants them to pack up and run, but Cooper can't do something so cowardly and chooses to confront the gang.
The song lays out the conflict between love and honor:
I only know I must be brave
And I must face a man who hates me
Or lie a coward, a craven coward
In my grave
The song was written for the movie by Ned Washington and Dmitri Tiomkin. In the film, it was sung by Tex Ritter, but the release by Frankie Laine was the hit.
The title appears just once, and it's in the verse:
Look at that big hand move along
Nearin' high noon
The song is often listed as "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)," incorporating the chorus line.
Ry Cooder, who worked on the music for a number of films, including Paris, Texas (1984), had this to say about the track: "'High Noon' is a magical formula of elements. In two or three bars, the feeling of the song is telling you exactly what went on before, what's happening now and what's going to happen later."