The Big Clock (film)

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The Big Clock
TheBigClock.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Farrow
Produced by John Farrow
Richard Maibaum
Screenplay by Jonathan Latimer
Based on The novel The Big Clock 
by Kenneth Fearing
Starring Ray Milland
Charles Laughton
Maureen O'Sullivan
Harry Morgan
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Daniel L. Fapp
John Seitz
Editing by LeRoy Stone
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 9, 1948 (1948-04-09) (United States)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Big Clock is a 1948 film noir thriller directed by John Farrow, and adapted by renowned novelist-screenwriter Jonathan Latimer from the novel of the same name by Kenneth Fearing.

The black-and-white film is set in New York City and stars Ray Milland and Maureen O'Sullivan. Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton appear in the film, as does Harry Morgan, in an early film role, as a hired thug. Noel Neill has an uncredited part as an elevator operator very early in the film.[1]

Plot[edit]

The story is told in flashback. When it begins, George Stroud (Ray Milland), editor-in-chief of Crimeways magazine, is shown hiding from building security behind the "big clock" ― the largest and most sophisticated clock ever built, which dominates the lobby of the giant publishing company where he works, Janoth Publications in New York City.

Stroud is eager to spend more time with his wife (Maureen O'Sullivan) and plans a long-postponed vacation from his job. He sticks to those plans despite being fired for it by his tyrannical publishing boss, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). Instead of meeting his wife at the train station as planned, however, Stroud finds himself preoccupied with the attention being shown him by Janoth's glamorous mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson), who proposes a blackmail plan against Janoth. When Stroud misses their scheduled train, his wife angrily leaves without him, so he begins drinking and spends the evening out on the town with York.

Later that night, Janoth spots a man leaving York's apartment, but does not get a clear enough look at him to see that it is Stroud. Although Stroud's evening with York had ended platonically, Janoth assumes otherwise, leading to a quarrel which ends when he murders her. Janoth determines to locate the man he had seen leaving the apartment and then frame that man for the crime. Ironically, Janoth re-hires Stroud to lead the effort to find the man.

Stroud then must balance the tasks of outwardly appearing to diligently lead Janoth's investigation and, at the same time, trying to prevent that investigation from uncovering the fact that it is he who is the very target of it. Meanwhile, he must also secretly carry out his own investigation to gather the evidence necessary to prove who the real murderer is.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

This was Maureen O'Sullivan's first film in five years, since retiring to raise her family. She did it as a favor for her husband, director John Farrow.[2]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Film critic Bruce Eder wrote, The Big Clock is a near-perfect match for the book, telling in generally superb visual style a tale set against the backdrop of upscale 1940s New York and offering an early (but accurate) depiction of the modern media industry."[3]

Film writer David M. Meyer calls The Big Clock, "More screwball comedy than noir, The Big Clock's big moments derive from snappy dialogue and over-the-top humor."[4]

The movie was one of 400 films on the nominee list for the American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Thrills" list of the greatest thrillers in American film history.

Remake[edit]

The story was remade in 1987 as No Way Out with Kevin Costner. The 1948 film is closer to the novel. The 1987 remake, on the other hand, updated the events to the United States Department of Defense in Washington D.C. during the Cold War.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Big Clock at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ "Husbands and Wives.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 4 May 1948. p. 3 Supplement: The Argus Woman's Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  3. ^ The Big Clock at AllMovie.
  4. ^ David M. Meyer (1998). A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Guide to Film Noir on Video. Avon Books. ISBN 0-380-79067-X. 

External links[edit]

Streaming audio[edit]