13 December 2012

The Bittersweet Irony of "The Clock" (1945)

One of my favorite films, way too underrated and overlooked, "The Clock" (1945) was - and I believe still is - sent on TCM once in a while and was one of my first Judy Garland movies. I still love to watch it because of its stars and its innocent sentimentality. However, something ironic struck me when I checked my facts and realised just how fast it went down the sewers for these sweet people, culminating around this very production.

Judy Garland (in her first dramatic non-singing role) plays a young woman from the city who by chance meets a naive and curious young soldier, Robert Walker (best known for playing quiet psychopath in Hitchcock's "Strangers On a Train").  At first glance, almost a   childlike tale of two youngsters trying out the world and love for the first time, at times stumbling and fumbling, nevertheless succeeding - through their genuine characters, enthusiasm and unpretentious, believable love story - in coming across the screen as something authentic, honest and moving.

They're so like children in this movie, innocent and lovable; it's hard to imagine the hardships they went through off-screen in their personal lives. As I said, it all sort of culminated here: Robert's wife, actress Jennifer Jones, had an affair with producer David O. Selznick, a fact, Robert found out during filming. Apparently it wasn't enough breaking his heart by suddenly leaving him  and make his life go down the tubes (yet, of course I don't know if they had troubles prior); he also had to be sold down the river through her infidelity. Judy found him almost every night after shooting sitting at a bar, drowning his sorrows in booze. She would then stay up the entire night helping him sober up and getting ready for the filming next day (ironic to the fact that a central scene in the film have them both stay up all night to help a milkman delivering his milk as they fall in love with each other). Meanwhile Judy herself had troubles battling a growing drug addiction, prescribed by the studio due to her low self-esteem and the demands of her being slimmer and also pep her up, adding another round of drugs because she couldn't sleep at night because of these drugs. A self-destructive path to say the least!

Robert died only 6 years(!) after making this film, which is really unbelievable thinking how sweet, young and unspoiled he seems in "The Clock" - and how it possibly could go that wrong. Judy would die 24 years later, only 47 years old, mainly due to her long and hard dependency on drugs and alcohol. I feel like pulling my hair and scream "WHY?!?", while having this silly yearning to somehow get hold of a time machine and go back; to do things all over again and do them right and help these poor people when they're hardly able to help themselves!

I'm not one of those people who cry floods every time I watch a touching movie, yet I think I can call myself sentimental in the above matters. Because it's just not fair!

But that's life, I know.

That's the bittersweet irony of "The Clock": To realise just how little time we had to get to know these wonderful, talented people, not just on screen time, but also in real life - and how little time Robert and Judy had to enjoy life themselves when all of a sudden it was over so quickly. Time didn't or just couldn't heal their deep wounds. Yet, I praise the time we did have with them!

First they were there - and suddenly they were gone. And if we never had stopped to really see them, we might never have, and our lives wouldn't have been the same. Luckily, for us and them, Robert and Judy didn't miss to see each other in the film.

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