AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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The Big Clock
Alternate Title: Judas Picture
Director: John Farrow (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Apr 1948
Production Date:   late Feb--mid-Apr 1947
Duration (in mins):   93 or 95
Duration (in feet):   8,541
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Cast:   Ray Milland (George Stroud)  
    Charles Laughton (Earl Janoth)  
    Maureen O'Sullivan (Georgette Stroud)  
    George Macready (Steve Hagen)  
    Rita Johnson (Pauline York)  
    Elsa Lanchester (Louise Patterson)  
    Harold Vermilyea (Don Klausmeyer)  
    Dan Tobin (Roy Cordette)  
    Henry ["Harry"] Morgan (Bill Womack)  
    Richard Webb (Nat Sperling)  
    Elaine Riley (Lily Gold)  
    Luis Van Rooten (Edwin Orlin)  
    Lloyd Corrigan (McKinley)  
    Frank Orth (Burt)  
    Margaret Field (Second secretary)  
    Philip Van Zandt (Sidney Kislav)  
    Henri Letondal (Antique dealer)  
    Douglas Spencer (Bert Finch)  
    Bobby Watson (Morton Spaulding)  
    B. G. Norman (George Jr.)  
    Joey Ray (Joe Talbot)  
    Frances Morris (Grace Adams)  
    Harry Rosenthal (Charlie)  
    Erno Verebes (Waiter)  
    James Burke (O'Brien)  
    Lucille Barkley (Hatcheck girl)  
    Harland Tucker (Seymour Roberts)  
    Gordon Richards (Warren Parks)  
    Joe Whitehead (Fisher)  
    Henry Guttman (Rufus Rowe)  
    Len Hendry (Bill Morgan)  
    Jim Davies (Bartender)  
    Noel Neill (Elevator operator)  
    Kay Young (Elevator operator)  
    Lee Emery (Elevator operator)  
    Wally Earl (Elevator operator)  
    Lillian Lindsco (Elevator operator)  
    Bea Allen (Elevator operator/Newstand clerk)  
    Mary Currier (Ivy Temple)  
    Earle Hodgins (Guide)  
    Darlene Mohilef (Elevator starter)  
    Sheila Raven (Elevator starter/Customer at Van Barth's)  
    Robert Coleman (Messenger)  
    Norman Leavitt (Tourist)  
    Al Ferguson (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Eric Alden (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Pat Lane (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Ralph Dunn (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Mike Donovan (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Chuck Hamilton (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Jim Drum (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Bob Kortman (Guard, Janoth Building)  
    Stuart Holmes (Guard, Janoth Building/Bit man)  
    Harry Anderson (Big guard)  
    Pepito Perez (Headwaiter at Van Barth's)  
    Nicholas Vehr (Doorman at Van Barth's)  
    Henry Guttman (Customer at Van Barth's)  
    Barry Norton (Customer at Van Barth's)  
    Bess Flowers (Customer at Van Barth's/Stylist in conference room)  
    Frances Conley (Secretary)  
    Lucy Knoch (Secretary)  
    Dorothy Barrett (Secretary)  
    Jean Marshall ("Sportsways" staff member/Bartender)  
    Virginia Doffy (Secretary)  
    Robbie Franks (Secretary)  
    Julia Faye (Secretary)  
    William Meader ("Airways" staff member)  
    Billy Burt ("Sportsways" staff member/Bartender)  
    Jerry James (Man with fish)  
    Skippy Elliott (Miss Blanchard)  
    Frederick Howard (Baxter James)  
    Theresa Harris (Daisy)  
    Broderick O'Farrell (Flavin)  
    James Carlisle (Van Spove)  
    Bert Moorhouse (Editor)  
    Don McGill (Kiska)  
    Mary Donovan (Woman in conference room)  
    John Farrell (Drunk)  
    Frank Hagney (Ice man)  
    Marlene Aames (Rosa [O`Flynn])  
    Judy Nugent (Penelope)  
    Napoleon Whiting (Bootblack)  
    Dick Keene (Hamburger cook)  
    Cliff Heard (Cab driver)  
    Lester Dorr (Cab driver)  
    Robert Stephenson (Cab driver)  
    Gary Owen (Cab driver)  
    Lane Chandler (Doorman, apartment house)  
    Helen Spring    
    Robert Riordan    
    Franklyn Farnum    
    John Sheehan    
    Richard Gordon    
    Diane Stewart    

Summary: As George Stroud, editor-in-chief of Crimeways magazine, hides from security guards in the clock tower of the Janoth Publications building in New York City, he reflects on the fact that thirty-six hours before, he was leading a normal life as a Janoth employee: George, who is finally about to go on his honeymoon after seven years of marriage, is ordered by his tyrannical boss, Earl Janoth, to go on assignment or be fired. Fed up with being loyal to a firm that is jeopardizing his family life, George quits. He then joins Janoth's mistress, Pauline York, in a bar and misses his honeymoon train while drowning his sorrows. Pauline, also tired of Janoth's egocentric manipulations, offers to help George humiliate Janoth by writing a torrid biography of him. After George tells Pauline that Janoth fired a man earlier in the day for choosing red ink over Janoth's preferred green, they go on a drunken search for a green clock as a "present" for Janoth, who is obsessed with time. While in an antique shop, George and Pauline out-bid a middle-aged woman for a Patterson painting, unaware that she is the eccentric Louise Patterson herself. Later, they visit Burt's Sports Bar, which George frequents, and George introduces Pauline to McKinley, a radio actor friend whose roles have included President McKinley and Jefferson Randolph. Playfully fulfilling their quest for a green clock, Burt gives George and Pauline a sundial, then adorns it with a green ribbon. Eventually, George takes Pauline home and collapses in a drunken stupor on her couch. Around one-thirty in the morning, Pauline sees Janoth arriving and rushes George out the door with his painting. Before reaching Pauline's door, Janoth catches a glimpse of a man catching the elevator, and he and Pauline then quarrel about their respective infidelities. Pauline tells Janoth she spent the evening with a man named Jefferson Randolph. When Janoth insults her, Pauline cruelly declares that women only go out with him for his power and position. Enraged, he stabs her with the sundial, killing her. He then calls one of his loyal editors, Steve Hagen, for help, and Hagen goes to Pauline's apartment and sets her clock back. He also takes George's handkerchief that was soaked in green liquor from Pauline's purse, and returns the sundial to Burt's bar. George, meanwhile, has flown to Virginia to meet his wife Georgette, and tells her that after he missed their train, he walked the streets despondently because she had not waited for him. Janoth telephones and apologizes before asking George to locate a man named Jefferson Randolph. George believes Janoth is trying to find the man who was seen with Pauline and feels compelled to return to New York. There, George sends his staff out on assignment to locate Jefferson Randolph, then tries to hide the fact that the descriptons all point to him. One staff member, Don Klausmeyer, figures out that the blonde seen with Jefferson Randolph the previous night is a model named Pauline York and goes to her apartment. George arrives first and finds Pauline dead, turns the clock ahead, then goes to confront Janoth about why he did not go to the police. Janoth craftily says he merely wanted the exclusive on a good story. As witnesses to Pauline and George's drunken antics are gathered in the Janoth building, the antiques dealer spots George in the lobby and tells Janoth that the killer is in the building. George is now trapped, unable to interview a cabbie who took Janoth home following the murder. Hagen, meanwhile, has printed an article in the evening newspapers offering a reward for a missing Patterson painting, hoping to bait the killer. Georgette, finding the painting in her bedroom, goes to George's office to confront him about his affair with Pauline York. After he explains everything to her, she agrees to locate the cabbie. Meanwhile, Louise Patterson has arrived to sketch a picture of the man who bought her painting. As soon as she realizes that he is none other than George, she offers to protect him in exchange for money. Janoth, meanwhile, has ordered his bodyguard, Bill Womack, to pay the cabbie to skip town, and Georgette ends up back at the building. At the same time, several witnesses are touring the building in search of Jefferson Randolph. While George and Georgette hide in Hagen's office, she finds George's handkerchief in Hagen's cigarette box, and George decides to try and frame Hagen for the murder in order to draw out Janoth. George then goes into the clockworks and, having mulled over the last thirty-six hours, takes action. George calls the cab company and learns that Hagen took a cab from Pauline's apartment early that morning. After George mistakenly hits a switch that momentarily stops all the building's clocks, Janoth sends an armed Womack to catch the man in the clock. George traps Womack in a stalled elevator and escapes into Hagen's office, where Georgette has brought McKinley. George then tells Janoth and Hagen that he has found the killer, and when they arrive, he introduces McKinley as a police inspector, and accuses Hagen. Although Hagen calls George's bluff by recognizing McKinley as a regular at Burt's bar, McKinley says he saw Hagen return the murder weapon. After Janoth assures Hagen that he will provide Hagen with the best legal counsel, Hagen blurts out that Janoth killed Pauline. Janoth shoots Hagen and runs out. Although George tries to warn him not to take the elevator, Janoth fires a poorly aimed bullet at George before falling to his death in the elevator shaft. Louise then discovers McKinley, her long-lost fourth husband, and George calls the police as Georgette kisses him. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Director: John Farrow (Dir)
  William H. Coleman (Asst dir)
Producer: Richard Maibaum (Prod)
Writer: Jonathan Latimer (Scr)
  Harold Goldman (Contr to scr const and dial)
Photography: John F. Seitz (Dir of photog)
  Otto Pierce (Cam op)
  Jack Koffman (Stills)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Roland Anderson (Art dir)
  Albert Nozaki (Art dir)
Film Editor: Eda Warren (Ed supv)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Ross Dowd (Set dec)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
Music: Victor Young (Mus score)
  Ernie Felice Quartet (Title song played by)
Sound: Hugo Grenzbach (Sd)
  Gene Garvin (Sd)
Special Effects: Gordon Jennings (Spec photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Harry Caplan (Prod mgr)
  Ronnie Lubin (Scr supv)
  Charles Sickler (Grip)
Country: United States

Music: "The Big Clock," music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.
Composer: Ray Evans
  Jay Livingston
Source Text: Based on the novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing (New York, 1946).
Authors: Kenneth Fearing

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Pictures, Inc. 9/4/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1553 Yes

PCA NO: 12426
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Suspense
 
Subjects (Major): Amateur detectives
  Editors
  Frame-ups
  Megalomania
  Murder
  Publishers and publishing
  Tycoons
 
Subjects (Minor): Antique dealers
  Bars
  Bartenders
  Clocks
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Drunkenness
  Eccentrics
  Elevators
  Employer-employee relations
  Evidence
  Falls from heights
  False accusations
  Fathers and sons
  Honeymoons
  Impersonation and imposture
  Loyalty
  Magazines
  Mistresses
  Neglected wives
  New York City
  Painters (Of paintings)
  Paintings
  Radio performers
  Taxicab drivers
  Vocational obsession
  Witnesses

Note: The film's working title was Judas Picture . Author Kenneth Fearing also published a condensation of his novel titled The Judas Picture in American magazine. Maureen O'Sullivan, who was married to director John Farrow, returned to the screen after a five-year hiatus. According to Par News , the elevator in the final scenes of the film was a set piece that was operated hydraulically and could be hoisted ten feet. Ray Milland and O'Sullivan recreated their roles on radio for The Screen Director's Playhouse on 15 Jul 1949. The film was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery picture of 1948; nominations were selected by a group of prominent American mystery writers. Elements of the story were re-woven into the 1987 film No Way Out , based on Kenneth Fearing's novel, directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Feb 1948.   
Daily Variety   16 Feb 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   16 Feb 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 46   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jul 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Feb 47   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 47   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Feb 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Apr 48   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Feb 48   p. 4051.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   21 Feb 48   p. 4065-66.
New York Times   22 Apr 48   p. 34.
Variety   18 Feb 48   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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