Like every teenager who ever walked the earth outside of the usual suck-ups, brown-nosers and goody-goodies, I saw myself in almost every sneering, anti-authoritarian character who came along. I began to grow past that in my early 20s, but I’ve always felt a certain kinship with outlaws, contrarians, rebels, malcontents.

And yet, paradoxically, the first movie character that I felt I truly understood was Gary Cooper‘s small-town marshall in High Noon, which I first saw on my parents’ TV. Because he embodied a kernel of an idea that had begun to chill my soul at an early age — that life is a solo journey**, and that when push comes to shove fair-weather friends aren’t worth a damn, and that you can’t count on anyone but yourself. Of course, I didn’t fully understand this until I hit my 30s.

** Ida Sessions (over the phone): Are you alone, Mr. Gittes?” Jake Gittes: “Aren’t we all?”