April 12, 1948 [The Big Clock]

Charles Laughton oils every joint to move more silently as Earl Janoth, time-obsessed publishing magnate in The Big Clock, his twitchy mustache bearing down on Ray Milland (and if there were no Cary Grant, wouldn't there still be a Ray Milland?), the mistress dead and New York's odder corners gathering beneath the Big Clock, jostling like strap-hangers packed into the subway.

Between Laughton's cold shoulder and Milland's rubber mug, I'm not sure if I saw a foreboding tale of twisted doom or a knockabout comedy—so OK, it's both, the tone often playful—as in Burt's bar, which has everything (including a green clock) or in the general vicinity of Elsa Lanchester's pixillated-but-savvy artist—and is this based on one Alice Peel, almost impossible not to run into (in certain circles) if one wanders far enough into New York's art world?—with a split-personality radio personality and a flummoxed art critic—

—Then down into the hole, beyond Janoth himself—bloated and sweaty in closeup, bashing his mistress with a sundial—to his silent henchman, played by Harry Morgan without moving a muscle, but ready to break you in half if Janoth loosens the leash—and George Macready as Janoth's second-in-command, his face impassive as well, a midle-aged protegé, eyeing everyone like a lizard hungry for the fly.

The plot itself is a string of improbabilities, the escape impossibly narrow—so thank goodness Milland is more than ready to wrestle it into submission—not only as the efficient chief of Crimeways magazine, his big story the hunt for himself, but also as himself hunting Janoth. And Milland is somehow excited by it all, eager to quit or drink or hide or seek—trapped with Janoth in the big building, the boss's private elevator opening just in time.


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