In 1944, Judy Garland began work on her first non-singing role in THE CLOCK. The film would be set in New York but made at the MGM studios at Culver City.
Veteran MGM director Jack Conway was assigned to the film and started by doing some second unit filming in New York. When he took ill, MGM contract director Fred Zinnemann was assigned to take over.After one month of filming, production was shut down when the studio and Judy were unhappy with Zinnemann’s direction.
Vincente Minnelli, who had made the very successful “Meet Me In St.Louis” the previous year with Judy, took over the shooting. But he did tell producer Arthur Freed that he would only do it if Fred Zinnemann agreed.
The following letter From Zinnemann to Minnelli is on the excellent website www.starsandletters.blogspot.com
Publicly Zinnemann said “Judy acted in a professional and honourable way. I thought she was doing very well, but she didn’t.”
He also said, “She might have felt insecure working with me…at the time it was quite a blow.”
In contrast, in this letter Zinnemann privately tells Minnelli, “Judy behaved pretty badly in the whole set up – and I have great contempt for the conduct of Arthur Freed.”
He also wishes Minnelli the very best of luck and says he has no hard feelings.
Judy and Vincente Minnelli were married one month after the film’s release in 1945.
A clock was to figure largely in one of Zinnemann’s most iconic films, HIGH NOON. Two of his films won the Best Picture Oscar – FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.
Along with “High Noon”, my favourite Zinnemann films are THE SEVENTH CROSS, THE SEARCH and ACT OF VIOLENCE. He only made just over 20 films in a 30 year career.
Fred Zinnemann directed shorts for MGM from 1936 to 1942. His first feature was KID GLOVE KILLER in 1942. Followed by EYES IN THE NIGHT and THE SEVENTH CROSS with Spencer Tracy. Perhaps then understandable that Judy Garland didn’t have confidence in this director who had only done three feature films . Although a good director is capable of tackling any genre.
It’s not clear what Zinnemann did between 1945 and 1947. He was not happy at MGM and was suspended for refusing assignments.
After the wonderful “Seventh Cross” in 1944, Zinnemann’s next two MGM films in 1947 both starred Jackie ‘Butch’ Jenkins, MY BROTHER TALKS TO HORSES and LITTLE MR. JIM.
Was MGM punishing him, or didn’t they realise what a talent Zinnemann was.
Freed from MGM after making THE SEARCH in Europe, Zinnemann went on to direct “The Men”, “Member of the Wedding”, High Noon”, “From Here to Eternity”, “Oklahoma”.
I re-watched “The Clock” today and found it a pleasant if slight story of a wartime romance between a soldier ‘Joe’(Robert Walker) on a 48 hour furlough in New York who meets an office worker, ‘Alice’ (Judy Garland) at Penn Station. They spend the two days together and end up getting married before he has to return to duty.
The cast is small and includes James and Lucille Gleason, (with Keenan Wynn and Moyna MacGill in one scene only, though the two actors add a light touch which is welcome).
Gleason is ‘Al Henry’ a milk truck driver who gives Judy and Robert a lift. ( they end up doing Gleason’s deliveries for him after he is injured.)
Joe and Alice get to know each other while visiting the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, another great set at MGM.
Unfortunately, any outdoor shots of the stars in New York were done with obvious back projection. If the film had been made after the war, perhaps The Clock and not “On The Town” would have been one of the first films made on location.
The clock of the title comes from a scene where Joe asks Alice where they will meet and she says, “Under the clock at the Astor at 7 .” ( I have tried to find a photo of the Hotel Astor Beaux Arts clock, without success. The enormous hotel at Times Square was demolished in 1967.)
Moyna MacGill (Angela Lansbury’s mother) is so funny in this scene with Keenan Wynn. She doesn’t say a word while eating her meal and trying to ignore the drunk Wynn. Her facial expressions are priceless.
This is the amazing set of Penn Station, recreated on Stage 27 at MGM.
The actual Penn Station in above photo, and the set below. Amazing.
Apparently Vincente Minnelli discarded most of the footage that Zinnemann had filmed and also reworked the script. He also recast James Gleason who replaces Hume Cronyn . And Audrey Totter , as Alice’s friend, was replaced by Ruth Brady.
Although profitable and showing Judy was a very capable actress, MGM quickly got her back into musicals.
One can only wonder how the film would have turned out under Fred Zinnemann’s direction.
Robert Walker (1918-1951) was the original choice for Judy’s costar in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” . He had married Jennifer Jones in 1939 and they divorced I945 after she became involved with David Selznick. He was subsequently married briefly to John Ford’s daughter, Barbara.
Robert had mental health and drinking problems. He died aged 32 before completing his role in”My Son John” in 1952. He had shown in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN that he was capable of much more than the light roles MGM had been giving him.
Arthur Freed makes a cameo appearance at the start of the film. (Composer Roger Edens also did a cameo as a piano player.)
Vienna, a most interesting write-up of behind the scenes on THE CLOCK(1945). As we see here, in a conflict between a new director and a major star, the star will win, as Judy Garland got what she wanted, which was Vincente Minnelli to direct. Another movie project that Fred Zinnemann started, but withdrew from, was THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA(1958) with Spencer Tracy. In this case Zinnemann wasn’t taken off the movie, but he left after loggerheads with Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner.
To add to your list of favorite Fred Zinnemann movies. I also like THE SUNDOWNERS(1960) and THE DAY OF THE JACKAL(1973).
As always, good use of photographs. I like the one of Judy Garland and Robert Walker visiting the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, another great set at MGM. Also the one of Moyna MacGill and Keenan Wynn.
Thanks, Walter. And yes, Zinnemann was always going to lose out at that time in his career. I like Day of the Jackal too.
I wasn’t aware that Fred Zinnemann had worked on “The Clock.” A lot of fascinating back story in your post (which I love). I did know that Robert Walker had been Judy’s choice for “the boy next door” in “Meet Me in St. Louis” and, ever since learning that, have imagined how perfect he would’ve been in the role. I believe it was Louis B. Mayer who prevented Walker from taking the role, thinking it was to small a part for the then rising star.
As for Arthur Freed, I was recently very disappointed to read that he was apparently a Harvey Weinstein type of his day.
But, to the point, thanks for a very interesting read.
Many thanks for your comments. One of the things I love about doing the blog is finding out things completely new to me , like Fred Zinnemann’s involvement in the Clock (called Under The Clock in the UK). I’ve just ordered Zinnemann’s autobiography so may find some more information about The Clock.
I first saw “The Clock” when I borrowed it from my local Library, on “VHS”. As long As I had a “VCR” I continued borrowing it. It quickly became my Favorite Judy Garland Movie, other than “Meet Me In St. Louis”. After just reading that this movie was actually filmed in California, not in New York, I could have been blown over with a straw. After I saw this movie, for the first time, I went to work talking about it. As soon as it became available on DVD I bought a copy and watched it over and over and over. This movie is so wholesome and wonderful. What I wish they had done was had “Joe” to declare his love for “Alice”. I find it so odd that “Alice” did, but “Joe” didn’t. And the scene when they’re in the Cafeteria, after they’ve gotten married, and “Alice” breaks down in tears, about the way they got married, the fella who was sitting at the table facing them, he just sat there eating and staring at them. That was creepy and unkind. I wish things had turned out differently for both Judy and Robert. This past October 13th would have been Robert’s 100th Birthday.
Thanks for your comments. Judy and Robert made a good team.