The Big Clock


Directed by John Farrow and starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Rita Johnson, this 1948 noir is a combination of farce and thriller.


Victim of circumstance George Stroud (Milland) is sure to be accused of the murder we already know his despotic boss (Laughton) committed. Most of the film, which is based on a Kenneth Fearing novel, is set in and around the skyscraper headquarters of Laughton’s publishing empire, where Milland's in charge of a magazine focused on true crime. All he wants is a vacation with his wife and son, something he's had to put off time and again because Laughton is always shoveling more work at him. He decides to quit, and for some reason has a few drinks with Rita, Laughton's former girl. Then, drunk, he buys a painting and is given a green sundial. The next morning he wakes up in Rita's hotel room with a hangover. He leaves her (still alive) to catch up with his wife in West Virginia, but soon after arriving in Wheeling he gets a phone call. Something bad has happened, and he tells his wife he must return to the city to straighten something out.


Meanwhile, Rita has been bludgeoned to death by sundial. For the next half of the movie, George evades the cops and his colleagues, who are basically working with him to look for him because a few witnesses saw him and Rita together the night before. The Big Clock is a fast 95 minutes of fun noir. It's complex and twisty with witty references to time and a disdain for media moguls and the materialistic.