(2 of 3)
The Clock is a pleasant, well-told romance rather than the great, true picture it might have been; but few films in recent years have managed so movingly to combine first-grade truth with second-grade fiction.
Successful Rebel. Vincente Minnelli has a number of predilections which normally don't go down too well in Holly wood. Boom shots, for instance, are generally under suspicion, both esthetically and economically. A boom shot must either be perfect or be scrapped. Constant use of a finder, too, is regarded as an affectation. Further, Minnelli often reports at the end of a day's work with only one shot perfected, and he is likely to make such remarks as: "The accidental juxtaposition of people and things makes for surrealism. The surrealists are the court painters of the period. They sum up an age which is at best utter confusion."
All such arty goings-on would ordinarily mean the kiss of death to a Hollywood career; but not in Minnelli's case. His semi-surrealist juxtapositions, accidental or no, help turn The Clock into a rich image of a great city. His love of mobility, of snooping and sailing and drifting and drooping his camera booms and dollies, makes The Clock, largely boom-shot, one of the most satisfactorily flexible movies since Friedrich Murnau's epoch-making The Last Laugh.
Before ordering a shot, he peers forever through his finder, working to make each shot the most abundant and expressive possible (he was once a photographer). Besides being "boom-happy" Minnelli is "extra-crazy," taking infinite pains to invent minor bits of business with anonymous individuals and groups. No man in the business gets more satisfactory results.
Much of the time, in his slow, expensive efforts at perfection, Minnelli drives writers, producers, actors and technicians quietly out of their habit-hardened professional minds. But he does it so gently, and always for such excellent reasons, that they end up, as his producer Arthur Freed says, by "loving him." Says his cutter, George White, "He may drive you crazy but he gets what he's after. For a guy who has that much on the ball, I'll string along."
Chicago-born 38 years ago, of theatrical Stock (his mother was a French actress), frailly handsome Vincente Minnelli got into New York theaters via musical comedy, as a designer of costumes, sets and ballets. Once dropped from Paramount (where he was paid $2,000 a week), he returned to Hollywood in 1940. Up to now, he has made musicals exclusively (Cabin in the Sky, I Dood It, the luscious Meet Me in St. Louis). He was frightened at first by the straight-dramatic Clock. But he turned it into a directorial tour de force. Studiously as he researches and plans his films, Minnelli is no theorist : "The exciting thing about pictures," he says, "is not to have a future plan. I like to work in a new quality every time." At the moment, his only future plan is to marry Judy Garland this June, if studio schedules permit.