Combustible Celluloid
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With: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, James Gleason, Keenan Wynn, Marshall Thompson, Lucile Gleason, Ruth Brady
Written by: Robert Nathan, Joseph Schrank, based on a story by Paul Gallico, Pauline Gallico
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/22/1945

The Clock (1945)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Thrilling Time

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis) directs Judy Garland in their second of five movies together, and at age 22 or 23, she's at her most endearingly beautiful. As a Manhattan working girl, she carries a weighty resign and caution, as well as just a tiny fragment of hope. Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train) co-stars as Joe, an ultra-green corporal on a two-day leave in the big city. Raised in a small town, Joe retreats after his first look at the awesome skyline. But when Alice Mayberry (Garland) breaks the heel of her shoe in Penn Station, he comes to her rescue and cajoles her into spending the day with him. For a glossy MGM production, The Clock gets by with relatively little; its small cast includes James Gleason as a milk truck driver who lends the heroes a hand and Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove) in a bravura performance as a ranting drunk in a diner. Minnelli films Wynn's stream-of-consciousness monologue in a single, long take (one of many such shots in the film). The director likewise gets a lot out of small details, such as the remarkable scene in which the new friends hop down from a museum exhibit as the guard walks by, only to hop back up when he's gone. Keep an eye on the wonderful, scene stealing extras as well, such as the two garbage men. The film's only problem is that Minnelli fails to fully capture the New York pulse, relying too heavily on process shots (fake backgrounds) instead of on-location realism. Nevertheless, The Clock is a delightful example of a "small" film that runs mainly on wits and imagination. (Minnelli reportedly replaced Fred Zinnemann, who was fired.)

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