Cast & Crew
Soon after arriving in New York City to begin a two-day leave, Corporal Joe Allen meets Alice Maybery, an attractive secretary, and falls instantly in love with her. Joe and Alice spend the afternoon sightseeing around New York and become better acquainted, then, following their visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum, the two bid each other farewell. As Alice boards a bus for home, Joe is unable to bear the thought that he may never see her again and chases after the bus on foot.
Seeing his earnestness, Alice agrees to meet him later in the evening. When Alice tells her roommate and co-worker, Helen, about her new acquaintance, Helen advises her to stay away from soldiers and warns her that they only break hearts when they leave. Alice, however, disregards Helen's advice, and meets Joe for dinner. As the evening progresses, Alice and Joe become so absorbed in their romantic pursuits that they forget the time and accidentally miss the last bus. Joe later hails a milk truck, mistaking its lights for a taxi, and asks for a ride home. The milk truck driver, Al Henry, agrees to take Joe and Alice home but only if they first accompany him on his milk run.
The milk run extends into the early morning hours and by the end, the three have become fast friends. As dawn approches, Al takes Joe and Alice to a diner for breakfast, where a drunk engages Al in an argument and punches him. Because Al is injured and unable to continue his milk run, Joe and Alice complete his deliveries. Later that morning, Al brings Joe and Alice to his home, where Al's wife cooks breakfast for everyone. Mrs. Henry sees the love that is now obvious between Alice and Joe and suggests that they marry right away. Alice and Joe agree, but their wedding plans are later spoiled when they become separated in a crowded subway station. Joe and Alice begin a desperate search for each other, but both soon realize that they have too little information about each other to know where to look or ask authorities for help.
Joe eventually finds Alice when they meet at Pennsylvania Station, and immediately takes her to City Hall to get married. A series of bureaucratic complications over blood tests delay their marriage, but Alice and Joe eventually get their City Hall wedding when they appeal their case directly to a judge. Disappointed by their rushed and spare wedding, Alice starts to cry, then she and Joe decide to repeat their vows in a church before Joe goes back to his post to resume his military service. With their vows firmly sealed, Joe bids Alice farewell the following morning, confident that they will be reunited as husband and wife when he returns from the war.
Ned Dobson Jr.
James K. Burbridge
Peter P. Decker
A. Arnold Gillespie
Marion Herwood Keyes
Standish J. Lambert
Robert W. Shirley
John A. Williams
Edwin B. Willis
None of that would have happened, however, if producer Arthur Freed hadn't had to resort to a third choice to direct the film. In 1943, he had fallen in love with Paul and Pauline Gallico's story of a soldier who meets and marries a girl during a whirlwind two-day leave, so MGM picked up the rights for $50,000. Then, when Judy Garland's erratic behavior on Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) created concern in the front office, he convinced them to make her next film a smaller picture and her first non-musical since joining the studio ten years earlier. Originally, Jack Conway, a studio veteran best known for breezy comedies and tough adventures, was assigned to direct, but health problems forced his replacement by Fred Zinnemann, who had recently made the transition from shorts to B-movies. Zinnemann had just scored with his first big-budget film, the World War II drama The Seventh Cross (1944), starring Spencer Tracy. But he and Garland couldn't communicate. His laid-back approach didn't work for an actress who was desperately insecure about undertaking her first dramatic role. After 24 days of trying to work together, Garland begged Freed to take him off the film. Aware of their problems, Zinnemann had no problem stepping down. The studio might have scrapped the picture altogether if they hadn't already invested a good deal of money in it, including over $60,000 to build a copy of Grand Central Station. Garland then asked Minnelli, whom she had dated for a while after their work together on Meet Me in St. Louis, to take over the picture.
Minnelli threw out most of Zinnemann's footage and also expressed concern over some of the writing. Over the screenwriters' protests, he used improvisation on the set to flesh out the characters and create a number of surprising comic vignettes. He also worked with the art direction team to re-create various locales he remembered from his New York days, turning the city itself into one of the film's major characters. In addition, he lavished attention on Garland and her performance, and before long, the romance that had waned after their previous film had ended was in full bloom again. After completing their work on The Clock, Minnelli introduced Garland to the real New York when MGM sent them there to promote the premiere of Meet Me in St. Louis. Early the next year, they announced their engagement.
The Clock provided a strong role for another troubled MGM performer, Robert Walker. After a series of comedies, the film showed him at his best in the understated dramatic role of Garland's military suitor. Actually, they had been slated to team for Meet Me in St. Louis before MGM decided he was becoming too important for the role of "the boy next door" in that film and used it to build up newcomer Tom Drake. At the time, Walker was suffering terribly from the break-up of his marriage to Jennifer Jones, who was being wooed by independent producer David O. Selznick. His problems led to an alcohol addiction that would eventually kill him. He never drank on the set, but Garland was aware of his situation. One night, when she and her friends were supposed to be having a girl's night out, she got word that Walker was on a bender. Garland searched the bars in Hollywood until she found him, sobered him up and got him into bed in time for a few hours sleep before the next day's filming. Even after they had completed the film, she and Minnelli continued their efforts to help Walker overcome his drinking problem.
MGM turned a tidy profit from The Clock, $2.8 million in grosses on an investment of $1.3 million. The film won strong reviews, too, particularly from the New York critics, who marveled at Minnelli's re-creation of their city. Though it came up empty when the Academy Awards® nominations were announced, it now ranks as a minor classic, proving both Minnelli's facility as a director and Garland's power as a dramatic actress.
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Screenplay: Robert Nathan & Joseph Schrank
Based on the Story by Paul and Pauline Gallico
Cinematography: George Folsey
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Music: George Bassman
Principal Cast: Judy Garland (Alice Mayberry), Robert Walker (Cpl. Joe Allen), James Gleason (Al Henry), Keenan Wynn (The Drunk), Marshall Thompson (Bill), Lucile Gleason (Mrs. Al Henry).
BW-91m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
The Clock - Judy Garland & Robert Walker in THE CLOCK on DVD
Judy Garland shocked her fans by not singing; her Alice Mayberry is just an ordinary girl unprepared to encounter the love of her life. Robert Walker discards his gangling See Here, Private Hargrove persona to sympathetically play a stranger on leave among New York's intimidating skyscrapers. Director Minnelli tries his best for a naturalism that goes against the MGM house style. He'd marry his star Garland soon after completing the film.
Synopsis: On a one-day-pass in New York, Corporal Joe Allen (Robert Walker) is lost until he encounters Alice Mayberry (Judy Garland) on her way home from work. Joe manages a favorable impression; she makes and keeps a dinner appointment that turns into a walk in Central Park, one of those, "Is something happening here?" dates. Joe and Alice's adventures continue as they hitch a ride on the milk truck of Al Henry (James Gleason), and end up making the night deliveries after a drunk (Keenan Wynn) gives Al a black eye. After being separated the next day, and finding each other again only by luck, the couple suddenly decide to get married. They then must run a frustrating gauntlet of Manhattan red tape to secure a license, get blood tests and obtain a waiver for the 72-hour cooling off period.
One can see Vincente Minnelli itching to try something new in The Clock. Many scenes are played out in only one or two master shot takes, like the luncheonette encounter with the drunken Keenan Wynn. Most if not all of the New York scenes are done by a second unit, with Garland and Walker inserted into process photography, but Minnelli and his cameraman George Folsey do their utmost to sidestep the MGM sheen of unreality. Critic James Agee remarked that Minnelli and company achieve some good natural effects, even to the extreme of passing a minute in Central Park where 'nothing happens.' The two young lovers are left alone in a vacuum, and find that they aren't bored.
In one scene near the beginning Alice returns to her apartment and encounters her roommate Helen (Ruth Brady) and Helen's boyfriend Bill (Marshall Thompson). The studied performances and 'smart' dialogue are more like a standard Hollywood movie. As soon as Alice and Joe meet again in the lobby of the Waldorf, Minnelli returns the show to the more agreeable naturalistic mode. Look at the way Garland walks: She purposely puts a slight waddle into her step, so as to be less like the idealized girls of her earlier MGM vehicles.
The story by Paul and Pauline Gallico, Robert Nathan and Joseph Schrank finds a good balance between sentiment and realism by keeping the conflicts as simple as possible. Joe proves that he really wants that dinner date by sprinting alongside Alice's bus. The rash decision to get married comes after they're accidentally separated -- their panicked sense of loss is enough to make up anyone's mind in a hurry. Alice is crestfallen when she realizes that she can't trace Joe, because she hasn't even learned his last name. Contemporary reviews of the movie stressed the romantic nature of a city that loves soldiers and sweethearts, but Joe and Alice spend equal time dealing with indifference and petty interference, especially their desperate attempt to secure a marriage license. Even the overnight 'magic coach' trip on a milk wagon has its drawbacks. Not only does the truck get a flat, milkman Al Henry doesn't exactly present a positive example of marriage...he and his wife get along but bicker like magpies.
The Clock is the idealized exception among quickie wartime marriages, which statistically had a low rate of success. The essential drama of going to war was like a marriage catalyst for scared young guys and eager young girls. When the boys returned from their duty abroad they often found they had nothing in common with their estranged brides. Cynicism worked its way into the mix when "Allotment Annies" gathered near points of debarkation. As the spouses of soldiers were entitled to monthly checks and benefits, some sharp sisters married repeatedly under assumed names, committing bigamy for profit. No wonder that the USO woman has no sympathy for Alice when she can't find Joe ... many of the marriages hatched under these conditions were pitiful mistakes.
Alice Mayberry doesn't escape feelings of disappointment and disillusion. She breaks down in tears after her rushed and utterly romance-free civil ceremony, with no ring and a janitor for a witness: "It was all so UGLY!" Alice does get her wedding night, which The Clock mercifully implies was a success. She and Joe appear to be serious kids with a deep affection for each other, and when Alice strides away from what by all rights should be a sad parting, she has a big smile on her face. The future is uncertain, but she knows where she's going, and she isn't afraid. Now all Alice must do is write all those letters, explaining to her folks -- and his folks -- that they're married!
James Gleason's wife is played by his real missus, Lucile. Producer Arthur Freed and screenwriter Robert Nathan contribute cameo appearances amid the countless extras for the street scenes, including many more black faces than is usual for an MGM film. I've always wondered if Walker and Garland choose the Waldorf Hotel lobby as their rendezvous point because MGM already had a set standing for Weekend at the Waldorf, made the same year.
Warners' DVD of The Clock is a near-perfect transfer of this B&W favorite. The good encoding allows us to examine some clever tricks, as when the camera pans to follow Garland and Walker from a stage set, to a position in front of a rear-projection of New York City. It's an excellent illusion. George Bassman's musical score stands out but avoids overstating The Clock's more emotional moments.
The disc comes with a Pete Smith short about a Hollywood Scout and a Tex Avery cartoon called The Screwy Truant. This is the Screwy Squirrel opus that changes course halfway through to lampoon Little Red Riding Hood. It also has the timeless moment of a wolf rushing through a door, only to run into a solid brick wall. A sign reads, "Imagine That! No Door!" A trailer is included as well. The cover art for The Clock is so attractive, it's hard to believe it's from an original MGM poster.
For more information about The Clock, visit Warner Video. To order The Clock (which is only available as part of the Marlon Brando Collection), go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Clock - Judy Garland & Robert Walker in THE CLOCK on DVD
In the opening scene, Robert Walker bums a light from a commuter played by none other than Arthur Freed.
The wistful piano player at the Italian restaurant is Roger Edens.
The milkman's wife is Gleason's real-life wife Lucile.
In the scene where Judy Garland and Robert Walker are riding in the milk truck, the song being played over the radio is "Our Love Affair" which was a hit song from Judy's 1940 movie "Strike Up The Band" with Mickey Rooney.
Released in England as "Under the Clock".
Started production With Fred Zinneman as director.
News items in Hollywood Reporter indicate that director Jack Conway worked on the film for one week in June 1944 "lining up background shots" of New York City. According to a studio memo dated June 27, 1944, Conway withdrew from the film due to illness and was replaced by Fred Zinnemann. The extent of Conway's contribution to the final film has not been determined. A June 21, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that M-G-M originally wanted Tay Garnett to replace Conway. Zinnemann directed the film until the end of August 1944, when he was replaced by Vincente Minnelli, whom Garland married in 1945. According to modern sources, Zinnemann's removal from the picture stemmed from his strained rapport with Judy Garland, and came about shortly after Garland had complained to producer Arthur Freed about their incompatibility. Modern sources also note that M-G-M bought the screen rights to Gallico's unpublished short story in 1943 for $50,000 and assigned Margaret Green to write the screenplay. In January 1944, Freed, unhappy with Green's script, replaced her with Joseph Schrank and Robert Nathan.
Although their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed, various news items in Hollywood Reporter list the following actors in the cast: Florence Allen, Jessie Arnold, Paulita Arviza, Estelle Aterre, Charles Bates, Jack Baxley, Mary Benoit, Margaret Bert, Mary Bovard, Volta Boyer, Steve Brodie, Ralph Brooke, Sally Ann Brown, Joan Carroll, Tony Carson, Douglas Carter, Lucille Casey, Alfredo Ceraldi, Wheaton Chambers, Eddy Chandler, Lyle Clark, Lucille Curtis, Kay Deslys, Joe Dominguez, George Dudley, Major Farrell, Nellie Farrell, Julie Gibson, Palmer Gran, Tom Herbert, Gertrude Hoffman, Reed Howes, Teddy Infuhr, Milton Kibbee, Charlotte Knight, Patricia Knox, Michael Knudsen, Helen Koford, Nolan Leary, Jack Lee, Babe London, Grace Lord, Frank McClure, Beryl McCutcheon, Gordon McDonald, Leila McIntyre, Gloria Marlen, Nita Matthews, Sybil Merritt, Robert Milasch, Phillip Morris, Tom Murray, John Mylong, Alix Nagy, George Nakes, Jack Orkin, George Peters, Lee Phelps, June Terry Pickerell, Whitten Platt, Rudy Rama, Robin Raymond, Naomi Scher, Michelle Rae Slaboda, Larry Spears, Florence Stevens, Doris Stone, Henry Sylvester, Ethel Tobin, Brad Towne, Alice Wallace and Cecil Weston. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Hume Cronyn, Louis Jean Heydt and Audrey Totter in the cast, but they did not appear in the final film.
The Clock marked Judy Garland's first dramatic, non-singing role in a film. The song "If I Had You," which was used in the film as background music, was recorded by Garland and The Merry Macs and released by Decca in 1945. James and Lucile Gleason, who play "Al Henry" and his wife, were also husband and wife in real life. Rogers Edens, who is seen playing the piano in one scene, was the well-known composer and musical arranger who worked on many of Garlands M-G-M musicals. Producer Arthur Freed also has a brief role in the film, as a man lighting a cigarette for "Joe Allen." Although background footage was filmed on location in New York City, contemporary news items indicate that many sequences were filmed at M-G-M's Culver City lot, where reproductions of the interiors of famous New York City landmarks, including Pennsylvania Station and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, were constructed. A biography of Minnelli notes that New York City was recreated through the use of photographic plates. The plates served as backdrops displayed through rear projection while the live action took place in front. Judy Garland recreated her role for the Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, which was broadcast on January 28, 1946. John Hodiak co-starred with Garland in the radio version.