A poem. Judy Garland never looked more beautiful than in the hands of her husband-to-be and Robert Walker is swooningly tender. Sort of like a Brief Encounter with hope.
This is the simple story of a boy and girl who meet and fall in love in the big city, made more urgent by the fact that he is a soldier on perhaps his last leave before leaving for the front. It is Sunday. Corporal Joe Allen (Walker) is a lonely, small-town boy in New York City for the first time. While kindly, random strangers are unwilling to chat with him. Finally, he accidentally trips Alice Maybery and she loses the heel of her shoe. He helps her to get it repaired and starts to make time. She is distrustful but agrees to let him accompany her part way home. The story is full of elisions. One of my favorites comes here when she says she cannot go with him to Central Park, she absolutely must go home. Cut to them laughing at seals at the zoo. Then they go to the museum and stay until closing time. She has a date that night and they part. Joe catches up with her bus and she agrees to meet him under the clock at the Astor.
When Alice gets home, it looks like her roommate convinces her that it is insane to go out with a soldier she has essentially picked up in the street when she doesn’t even know his last name. But the next cut is to the Astor and Alice is only five minutes late for her rendezvous.
The remainder of the film follows the development of their love, a harrowing separation, and finally their desperate attempt to marry before Joe must catch his train. With James Gleason as a kindly milkman.
I think this is just about perfect for what it is. Despite what could seem a contrived plot, the lovers and their emotions seem very really to me. I absolutely love Walker in this. The look on his face in the moments up to their first kiss are almost unbearably sincere. Poor guy was still recovering from David Selznik’s successful blitzkrieg campaign to steal wife Jennifer Jones from him. Highly recommended.
I think this film got robbed at Oscar time. I would have given at least nominations for most everything. The technical aspects are quite beautiful and its New York is awe-inspiring for something filmed strictly on the MGM lot. Penn Station never looked better. The score is wonderful. The National Board of Review did name The Clock one of the top ten films of 1945, however.