Saturday, March 8, 2008

Daylight Savings Time

The second Sunday in March marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in the US, when we all "spring forward" by moving our clocks one hour forward (well, not the people in Arizona and Hawaii). In honor of this day, I'd like to recommend The Clock (MGM, 1945).

Robert Walker stars as Cpl. Joe Allan, a serviceman who has two days' leave in New York City. While in Penn Station, Allan helps the young Alice Mayberry (Judy Garland) when she breaks the heel of her shoe. She agrees to show him the sights, and they quickly fall in love, despite the fact that she's already got a date for that night. Well, she breaks the date, meets Joe under the clock at the Astor (hence the title of the movie), and proceeds to begin a whirlwind, if unorthodox, romance that lasts for the rest of his leave.

The romance is unorthodox because of whom they meet along the way: they get stuck in Central Park after the buses have stopped for the night, and kindly milkman Al Henry (played by veteran character actor James Gleason) agrees to take them home, although they'll have to go with him on his rounds first. Things get tough, however, when Henry gets socked by a drunk at one of the deliveries (played by Keenan Wynn), and Joe and Alice have to finish the milkman's rounds for him. Afterwards, they take him home, where we meet, Mrs. Henry, who is played by James Gleason's real-life wife of over 40 years, Lucile.

I won't give away how the romance ends, but The Clock is a wonderful movie. It's Garland's first as an adult, and she doesn't do any singing or dancing, either. To be honest, I'm not generally that much of a fan of Garland's work, since I don't care too much for the Freed Unit musicals, and in her later work, she became almost a caricature of herself. But in The Clock, Garland shows that she was actually quite a capable actress, despite having been badly misused by MGM for all those years. Walker is fine as the soldier, and James Gleason is a delight as the milkman; like so many of the character actors in the days of the studio system, Gleason's presence brightens every movie he's in, and oftentimes studio movies are just as fun to watch for the charactor actors in the cast as they are for the stars.

The other highlight is the set design: the scenes in Penn Station were not filmed in New York, as the station was just too busy, and filming would have been a logistical impossibility. Instead, a recreation was created on the MGM back lot, with stunning accuracy.

Happily, The Clock is available on DVD.

No comments: