Updated: Jul 2, 2022
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Robert Walker stars as U.S. Army Corporal Joe Allen on a two-day pass in New York City and Judy Garland stars as secretary Alice Maybery. The two are attracted to each other and spend the day sightseeing in Manhattan and visiting the Metropolitan Museum.
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“THE CLOCK” – WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
Blu-ray; 1945; Not Rated
Best extra: Lux Radio Theater audio adaptation of the film.
JUDY GARLAND, who would have turned 100 on June 10th, is radiant in this sweet, non-musical New York City romance. Adapted from a story by Paul and Pauline Gallico and directed by Vincente Minnelli, who married Garland soon after the production, “The Clock” co-stars Robert Walker in a rare love-interest role. In fact, it may be hard for Alfred Hitchcock fans not to think about Walker’s chilling portrayal of a sociopathic killer in “Strangers on a Train” when they see him.
Walker plays Corporal Joe Allen, a soldier on leave, with two days to spend in Manhattan. A small-town guy from the Midwest, Joe has no idea what to do or where to go in the crowded metropolis. When Alice Maybery (Garland) trips over Joe’s feet in Penn Station and breaks the heel of her shoe, a friendly relationship unfolds – especially after Joe pounds on the door of a shoemaker closing shop and convinces him to do the repairs. Turns out Alice also comes from a small town, but has lived and worked in a New York City office for several years, and knows her way around. She offers to give Joe a brief tour of the city, which extends to dinner, as well as an all-night adventure in a milk truck, helping an injured milkman with his deliveries. Alice and Joe’s friendship – surprise, surprise – soon becomes romantic.
Walker and Garland are delightful, as is the rest of the cast, with some memorable minor characters who add little touches of oddball New York humor to the mix. One such gem is Keenan Wynn as an unruly drunk in a café delivering a rambling diatribe. Sitting at the bar is another wonderful character, who never says a word: A shabbily elegant lady, who eats her blue plate special in slow motion, a tiny bite at a time with pinky raised, and who’s totally oblivious to the drunkard’s rant. Another quirky non-speaking character is a guy who sits at the next table from Alice and Joe as the couple have an emotional conversation. The guy eavesdrops shamelessly, reacting to their every word – but Alice and Joe never notice him.
(1) “The Clock” runs just 91 minutes and opened on May 3, 1945, during the final months of World War II. (2) An inbound train enters Penn Station. (3-5) Corporal Allen is overwhelmed by the number of people and the size of the buildings in Manhattan.
SIDENOTE: Two other directors had been attached to the project before Minnelli took over. First, MGM veteran Jack Conway had mostly helmed comedies, but health issues forced him to step down. Then up-and-coming director Fred Zinnemann (“High Noon,” “From Here to Eternity”), but he and Garland experienced constant friction and, after nearly a month of shooting, he was out. Producer Arthur Freed didn’t want to scrap the film – especially since the studio had invested $60,000 in building a replica of Penn Station. All of the scenes were being filmed on the MGM lot. He decided to reunite Minnelli and Garland after she begged for his direction, and why not? Their previous film, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), had been nominated for four Academy Awards.
This Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray transfer looks excellent, sourced from a 4K scan of the best surviving elements (1.37:1 aspect ratio). The black and white images are always sharp and clear, with bright whites and dense blacks, as well as a pleasing grainy filmic texture.
The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio is very good, with dialogue always clear and big city sound effects quite convincing. Optional subtitles are provided.
The bonus features all appeared on the previous 2007 DVD edition and include: a “Pete Smith Special Short” called “Hollywood Scout” from 1945. It follows an assistant talent scout as she auditions animal acts. “The Screwy Truant,” a cartoon by Tex Avery in which “Screwy Squirrel” brutally repels a hapless canine truant officer. And, the 47-minute-long “Lux Radio Theater Adaptation,” recorded in January of 1946, a pared-down version of the movie, with Judy Garland as Alice and John Hodiak playing Joe, instead of Robert Walker.
— Peggy Earle
(1&2) Alice Maybery trips over Corporal Allen’s leg and breaks the heel of her shoe. (3) They convince the shoe repair owner to reopen the shop. (4) They continue the day sightseeing from Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum.
(1) Alice tells her roommate Helen (Ruth Brady) about Joe. (2&3) Joe and Alice are falling in love. (4) The couple misses the last bus and they mistake the lights of a milk truck for a taxi. The driver Al Henry (James Gleason) agrees to take Joe and Alice home, but they must accompany him on his milk run. (5) One of the milk stops included an all-night café with a loud drunk (Keenan Wynn) center, and a shabbily elegant lady (Moyna MacGill), who eats her blue plate special. (6&7) Joe’s final day as they continue their emotional bond.