PRODUCTION NUMBER: 1331
PRODUCTION DATES: [Zinneman] August 1, 1944 – August 2, 1944
[Minnelli] September 1, 1944 – November 21, 1944
PRODUCTION COST: $1,034,207.70
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
RELEASE DATE: May 25, 1945
INITIAL BOX OFFICE: $2,783,000
The Clock was Judy’s only non-singing role for MGM, and one of the few times she’s seen in a contemporary story in contemporary clothing. It’s also the last time Judy appeared in a black and white film at MGM.
Judy had wanted to make a purely dramatic film for at least a few years when MGM’s musical producer Arthur Freed greenlit the film with Judy as the star. Musical stars of the era were not considered to be on the same par as dramatic stars mainly because most of the musicals made were light, fluffy entertainment. They weren’t considered as “serious” as their more dramatic non-musical counterparts. However, everyone could see that of all the female musical stars of the time, Judy Garland definitely had the talent to carry a dramatic film. Freed later commented that The Clock was produced as a lark to give Judy something different do work on after the musicals she had recently been cranking out, including the just completed masterpiece, Meet Me In St. Louis.
The Clock was definitely a Freed Unit pet project. It was the unit’s first dramatic film and just about everyone that Freed had gathered to popular his unit was involved. Freed assigned Jack Conaway as the director but after Conaway became ill he was replaced by Fred Zinnemann. And that where the trouble began. Judy and Zinnemann didn’t click at all. The film was important to her. She was passionate about the project and wanted the right director to guide her. Freed later said, “Judy came to see [and said] ‘I don’t know – he must be a good director but I just get nothing. We have no compatibility.'” Freed sent for Zinnemann and the director echoed Judy’s sentiments. The two didn’t click. It’s been suggested that Judy had in fact been waiting for Vincente Minnelli to become available. Minnelli had guided her through Meet Me In St. Louis to great success. Judy felt she could trust his instincts about what was best for her. By the end of filming the two were in love and well on their way to getting married.
Once Minnelli took control, he tightened up some of the loose ends, added some new characters and more importantly made the city of New York a third character. Because the film took place in New York City, and it was the fast romance between a soldier on a 48 hour leave (played by Robert Walker) and a local office worker (Judy), Minnelli wisely saw the city as an influence on the motives and machinations of the young couple. Seen through the soldier’s innocent eyes the city is seen as huge and imposing. Seen through the eyes of the office worker it’s more intimate. Minnelli later said, “I decided at once to make New York itself another character in the story and I introduced a number of crazy people. I used a lot of improvisation, not actually having a new script written, but instead I developed new ideas, new situations and dialogue as I went along.”
With everyone happy, filming proceeded smoothly. The result is a lovely wartime love story that has stood the test of time and is still as enjoyable today as it was when it was released. Most of the wartime romances made during this have not aged well due to their in-your-face patriotism. But thanks to the real chemistry between Judy and Robert, and Minnellie’s sensitive direction, The Clock is a minor masterpiece of the genre.
When The Clock was released on May 25, 1945, the appetite for this type of wartime romance had waned. World War II was nearing its end and since it was obvious the Allies were going to win, audiences were anxious to get back to normal. The urgency of a young man and woman during a 48 hour leave wasn’t as timely as it had been. The film still popular, made a good profit, and got glowing reviews. But audiences preferred to hear Judy sing, and that’s what they got for the rest of her tenure at MGM.
TIMELINE PART ONE:
TIMELINE PART TWO:
Judy Garland as Alice Mayberry
Robert Walker as Corporal Joe Allen
James Gleason as Al Henry
Keenan Wynn as The Drunk
Marshall Thompson as Bill
Lucille Gleason as Mrs. Al Henry
Ruth Brady as Helen
Uncredited: Moyna MacGill as “Woman in Restaurant”; Ruby Dandridge
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Assistant Director: Al Shenberg
Screenplay by: Robert Nathan and Joseph Schrank
Based on a story by Paul Gallico and Pauline Gallico
Score by: George Bassman
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis and Mac Alper
Costumes superviced by: Irene, Associate: Marion Herwood Keyes
Makeup: Dorothy Ponedel
Director of Photography: George Folsey
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe
Editor: George White