Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 2, 2022)
With 1945’s The Clock, Warner Archives brings their celebration of Judy Garland’s 100th birthday to a conclusion. It follows 1941’s Ziegfeld Girl and 1942’s For Me and My Gal as the third of three Blu-rays.
Corporal Joe Allen (Robert Walker) comes from a small US town. When he gets a 48-hour leave pass, he decides to visit New York City and see the sights.
As he reaches Penn Station, Joe bumps into Alice Maybery (Garland). The two embark on a whirlwind romance with deeper repercussions due to Joe’s military commitments.
Given the movie’s title, its era and Walker’s presence, I half-expected Clock to provide noir thriller. Garland’s participation would appear to negate that concept, however, so don’t expect Judy to step outside of her romantic wheelhouse.
Though Clock does take Garland away from the musical numbers that acted as a staple of Ziegfeld Girl, For Me and My Gal and the vast majority of her filmography. In fact, I can’t say off the top of my head if I’ve ever seen a Garland film in which she didn’t sing any songs, though I’m sure others exist.
One other change comes from my perception of Garland’s looks and how they relate to her role. In Ziegfeld Girl, I felt Garland didn’t seem attractive enough to play a glamorous showgirl.
Garland offers a much better fit for Alice, and it doesn’t hurt that Garland grew up during the four years between films. While still not a real beauty, Garland looks considerably prettier here than in Ziegfeld, perhaps because she “grew up” between the ages of 19 and 23.
Without her usual musical talents to display, Garland must rely on actual acting, and she does quite well in the part. Alice doesn’t offer the world’s most challenging part, but Garland makes Alice convincing and believable.
Unfortunately, Walker proves less satisfying as Garland’s co-lead. As the wide-eyed visitor to the Big Apple, he tends to seem more annoying than endearing.
This makes Walker a flawed romantic lead. He comes across as cartoony and overbearing, so much so that it becomes tough to figure out why Alice falls for him.
Of course, the answer is “because it’s a movie”, though the contrived nature of Clock seems greater than usual. The notion of the limited time the leads can spend together feels like an artificial concept that exists just to motivate actions more than as an organic construct.
As such, Clock can feel more like a collection of scenes than an actual narrative. Much of the time, we get shots of Joe and Alice as they start to part, and we also find their seemingly endless encounters with colorful New York locals.’
I do like that Clock ends without the usual fairytale vibe, as it shows the possibility that the impetuous strangers make a mistake. Also, even with Walker’s annoying performance and the various contrivances, the movie keeps us reasonably entertained.
I just wish it mustered more than that. The Clock delivers a decent romantic fantasy but not one that feels above average.