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"THE BIG CLOCK" , FILM NOIR FAVORITE, TUESDAY MIDNIGHT EASTERN TCM (Monday going into Tuesday)


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I guess some still quibble about it being film noir or not;  partly because of the shards of glancing  humor that surface throughout.   But in a "big tent" definition, it's noir and a beguiling specimen.

Love movies about corrupt press empires, seething with dark currents of which we're only partially conscious.....   in that respect, this slightly reminds me of Fritz Lang's "While the City Sleeps",  recently discussed here.

Who better than Charles Laughton to play despicable Earl Janoth,  the baleful corporate baron who dominates a whole building full of scurrying, ant-like employees.   He dominates, along with his giant, architectural clock.

Director John Farrow was so smart to cast Ray Milland as the one reporter/editor who ultimately goes up against Janoth.    Milland has that slippery,  easy-natured but  slightly subversive quality that fits the role to a tee.   You believe he wants to buck Janoth and take that delayed honeymoon with wife Maureen O'Sullivan and his little boy;  but you also easily reconcile him sliding into a long, flirtatiously boozy interlude with Janoth's  disaffected mistress, talented, doomed Rita Johnson....

So many pleasures in this, including Laughton's real life wife Elsa Lanchester as a kooky artist, and under-sung character player, George Macready,  as Laughton's mysteriously loyal, equally unscrupulous henchman, "Steve".

Farrow seems to be an under-appreciated director,  or am I wrong?   I'm glad he got his wife Maureen O'Sullivan to come back to the screen here as Ray Milland's  indulgent and "grounding" wife.  Also, wallow, if you're inclined,  in the creation of a moody, brittle, and upscale late Forties'  New York milieu.   Lovely writing with snappy dialog.

Finally, that unexpected last move by Laughton--   great cap-off to a great movie.       

 

 

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18 minutes ago, lilypond said:

Farrow seems to be an under-appreciated director,  or am I wrong?  

I don't see John Farrow mentioned much at this forum so you could be on to something there.    He was a solid director and directed 5 noir\crime films,   3 for Paramount (Calcutta with Alan Ladd and Gail Russell  (1947),   The Big Clock,   and Alias Nick Beal (1949 - also with Ray Milland and Audrey Totter) and then moved on to RKO for two Robert Mitchum noirs, Where Danger Lives (with Faith Domergue)  and His Kind of Woman with Jane Russell.

Farrow didn't have a strong personal director style and that may be one reason he isn't mentioned much. 

 

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I remembered that Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg had written about that all-important clock (which I've kind of given short shrift to here).  This passage from their book, "Hollywood in the Forties" is descriptive, and has that plummy, veddy British "Higham-esque" prose going for it:

"From the first tense editorial conference, flabby faces round a massive table, sycophants jumping to their feet at a snap of Janoth's fingers... ,  the film never flags....  Above all,  the giant clock which dominates the proceedings-- nerve centre of the the Janoth organisation (sic)--  is magnificently created by the art department:  with its endlessly ticking dials, pulsing dynamo, and gliding levers, it reminds one of the heart of "Metropolis",  and its impersonal energy is meaningfully shown pulsing through the mutual hatreds, the tensions of office life."

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JAMESJAZGUITAR,  I've liked several of his films in the past, without knowing he was their director.   Was looking over his credits just now, and a number of them sound tantalizing, including the "Alias Nick Beal" one you mention.   He sounds interesting.   I remember not that much from a memoir Mia Farrow wrote, but the impression I retain of him from that is sort of hazy.  Think she painted him as sort of stern and remote, artistic and intelligent...

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13 hours ago, lilypond said:

JAMESJAZGUITAR,  I've liked several of his films in the past, without knowing he was their director.   Was looking over his credits just now, and a number of them sound tantalizing, including the "Alias Nick Beal" one you mention.   He sounds interesting.   I remember not that much from a memoir Mia Farrow wrote, but the impression I retain of him from that is sort of hazy.  Think she painted him as sort of stern and remote, artistic and intelligent...

Farrow also directed 1948's Night Has a Thousand Eyes with Edward G. Robinson, Gail Russell and John Lund, plus a couple of other Ray Milland movies:  the noir-westerns  Copper Canyon with Hedy Lamarr as the femme fatale and California co- starring Barbara Stanwyck.

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