2019 TCM Classic Film Festival
Directed by Vincente Minnelli, The Clock (1945) stars Judy Garland and Robert Walker in an entertaining romantic comedy about a young couple who meet and fall in love in New York City. The screenplay by Robert Nathan and Joseph Schrank was adapted from an original story by Paul and Pauline Gallico. Filmed in black-and-white with the elegant Minnelli touch, it’s a time capsule of the World War II era and perfectly fits this year’s theme of Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies.
As to be expected of a Minnelli film, it’s well-crafted and sophisticated though the lead characters have an innocence and a naivete. Corporal Joe Allen (Robert Walker) is a soldier from a small town on leave, experiencing New York City for the first time. There’s a meet-cute at Penn Station when Joe accidentally causes office worker Alice Mayberry (Garland) to lose her high heel. She’s drawn to his boyish charm but reluctant at first, thinking he might be a Romeo in uniform, one of many on the prowl.
A clock at Hotel Astor is literally a central meeting place and symbolic of the limited time they’ll have together while Joe is on leave. In May 4, 1945, the New York Times wrote:
The atmosphere of the big town has seldom been conveyed more realistically upon the screen than in this picture. Much of the background footage was actually made here, and the director, Vincente Minnelli, has recorded the pulse beats of Manhattan- the roaring elevators, the screeching police sirens, the basso whistling of big boats in the Hudson, the crashing of garbage cans on the midnight pavements and all the other voices of cosmopolitan life- with electrifying effect. The sound track of this film is a composition in itself, not just a mechanical device … From the young couple’s humorous meeting in Pennsylvania Station on a Sunday afternoon, the scenarists develop their growing attachment with a lightly sentimental touch as they whisk around the town, visiting the zoo in Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum, and meet for a dinner date under the timepiece in the Hotel Astor. New Yorkers will no doubt be amused by the ride on an open-top bus which, miraculously, zips up Fifth Avenue to the park without stopping.
On their way to falling in love, Joe and Alice become separated, find each other and lose each other again. In the climax, there’s a frantic race to secure a marriage license before Joe ships out. Along the way, there’s a series of amusing adventures, including one involving a good-hearted milkman, played with humor by character actor James Gleason. Viewers who only know Robert Walker as the suave villain Bruno in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) will be surprised to see him as small town bumbler Joe. Garland was never lovelier and the chemistry between them is a convincing mixture of passion and playfulness. Her 1940’s style has an infinite appeal for classic movie fans. Designer Irene was the costume supervisor.