Friday, June 7, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CLOCK

I am not the biggest Judy Garland fan out there. I respect her supreme talent, and I enjoy her singing to a degree, but once drugs completely took over her life and her voice lost something I lost interest in her. However, in 1945 Judy was still at the top of her game - she was a big recording star at Decca Records, and she was one of the most popular stars MGM had on their lot. Garland could almost make any movie she wanted, and she did with her first dramatic effort The Clock (1945).

Garland had asked to star in a straight dramatic role after growing tired of the strenuous schedules of musical films. Although the studio was hesitant, the producer, Arthur Freed, eventually approached Garland with the script for The Clock after buying the rights to the short unpublished story by Pauline and Paul Gallico. Initially, Fred Zinnemann was brought in to direct the picture. After about a month he was removed at the request of Garland. There was a lack of chemistry between the two and early footage was disappointing.

When Freed asked who Garland wanted to direct the film, she answered, "Vincente Minnelli". Minnelli had just directed Garland the previous year in Meet Me in St. Louis, which was a tremendous success. Moreover, she and Minnelli had become romantically involved during the principal photography of Meet Me In St. Louis. During production of The Clock, they rekindled their romance, and were engaged by the end of shooting. Minnelli discarded footage shot by Zinnemann and reshaped the film. He revised some scenes, tightened up the script and incorporated New York City into the film's setting as a third character. As with Meet Me in St. Louis, he supervised adjustments to Garland's costumes, make-up and hair.


Both producer Arthur Freed and Roger Edens have a cameo in this film. Near the beginning, Freed lights Walker's cigarette and then gives him the lighter. Edens, a music arranger and close friend to Garland, plays piano in a restaurant. Screenwriter Robert Nathan appears uncredited smoking a pipe. Though the film was shot entirely on the MGM lot in Culver City, Minnelli managed to make New York City believable, even duplicating Penn Station at a reported cost of $66,000.

Both stars of The Clock were plagued by personal problems that continued throughout their lives. During filming, Garland became increasingly addicted to prescription drugs given by the studio to control her weight and pep her up. Just prior to filming the The Clock, Walker learned his wife, Jennifer Jones, was having an affair with film producer David O. Selznick and wanted a divorce. Walker began to spiral downward. During filming, Garland would often find him drunk in a Los Angeles bar and then sober him up throughout the night so he could appear before cameras the next day.


Many audiences who were surprised and disappointed to find that Garland did not sing in the film, were nevertheless impressed by her performance. It would be 16 years, however, before she would make another dramatic film, 1961's Judgment at Nuremberg, which was ashame because Garland had the acting ability to tackle drama.

Although this film, released on May 25, 1945, made a respectable profit, it was not as successful as Meet Me in St. Louis, released the previous year. Because World War II was ending, The Clock's story was not a popular choice among film-goers who wanted to put the war behind them. Nevertheless, it was well received by critics who favorably noted Garland's transformation into a mature actress. Judy Garland and Robert Walker worked well together as two people who meet while the soldier (Walker) is on leave. In a few hours Walker and Garland are in love - does that happen in real life?

 Judy Garland and Robert Walker were the stars of the movie with New York City as a great co-star. Also look for great character actors like James Gleason, Keenan Wynn (he has a great appearance in a restaurant scene), and Ruth Brady among others. The Clock is a hidden gem among Garland's mammoth musical filmography. Take some time (no pun intended) and check out the movie if you like a great war story that will tug at your heart strings...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

4 comments:

  1. I am with you on Judy Garland. Not only am I not a fan, but I quite dislike her and find that she ruins most things for me. Interestingly, I feel similarly about Jennifer Jones, in large part because I like Robert Walker, and every time I look at Jennifer, I see the way she hurt him.

    Despite not liking Miss Garland, though, I actually do very much like "The Clock." It's a sweet and touching film and really shows the desperation young couples felt during wartime.

    Have a great day!

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  2. I'm not a huge Judy fan either, but always thought THE CLOCK was a sweet film. I enjoying learning more about the making of it.

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  3. To balance out the other comments, I *am* a huge Judy Garland fan. Though as it happens, I don't particularly care for "The Clock." So, go figure.

    In any case, thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about the movie.

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  4. I LOVE this movie! I'm watching it right now on TCM. :)

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