I recently spent an evening watching an old movie favorite of mine–
“The Clock” from 1945 –
starring Robert Walker,
and a very young and beautiful Judy Garland.
This movie always moves me.
The plot of the film goes like this: (from MGM’s press sheet):
“A soldier on a two-day pass in New York meets a girl under the clock at Penn Station, and while it ticks away 48 hours he becomes well acquainted with her and the city.
Touring the city together they fall in love and both want to get married, but are hesitant with the realization that they scarcely know each other and will face a long damaging separation when he goes overseas. A chance meeting with a friendly milkman and his family helps them come to a decision.”
I spent much of the rest of the evening thinking about why someone (me) who normally doesn’t even like these two actors would be so involved in this movie…..
Robert Walker always played that touchy-feeley delta type male that makes me wanna wretch.
And Judy was a difficult person to work with, and it came across on the screen.
…. this film always touches me… and that bugs me.
Having been a service-man myself,
I know how lonely it is to be in strange town for a short liberty…
…. your time runs out before you really get to know your way around, and meeting girls is difficult because they mistrust your motives (I personally see nothing wrong with a perfectly understandable sexual motive…) and they usually don’t hang out where servicemen do anyway….
… so I can relate to this connection the soldier felt for this young woman…
she was sweet and beautiful, and didn’t seem to mind the fact that he was a serviceman…..
………… to fall in love with a beautiful stranger,
— well, there’s nothing really strange about that.
From her perspective,
she wasn’t exactly lonely, but she wasn’t fulfilled in her relationships,
— and she found this young soldier to be fascinating, fun to be with, and interested in her and her needs.
So – it’s not strange that they should hit it off……
And from a cultural perspective, it was wartime – and it was a common enough occurance during WW II for people to marry after a (shall we say..) whirlwind courtship.
Wartime marriages were a good psychological boost for the overseas bound fighting man… and for the women on the homefront.
I guess the reason this movie pulls at me has to do with what I know (or think I know) about the power of Love.
I don’t mean LOVE-SEX –
I mean LOVE-The Emotion.
It is a force that one must never underestimate….
it can create life…. and it can take it, too.
Now, don’t get me wrong-
I’m no love-mystic..
(Well, ok, in a way I am… )
I do not believe in emotional love as an external force- ( not in that way, anyway)
I don’t consider this kind of love as a state of grace or as having any inherent purity.
Much of it is hormones- stimulated by pheremones and biologically imposed priorities.
I do believe that love comes in three flavors….
Agape (love of family, love of God) ,
Charity (love of community, love of neighbor)
Eros (sensual or romantic love) —
— and for our purposes here, we are talking about EROS.
In the movie,
LOVE renews the vitality and joy in their lives –
gives them new things to think about, plan, and hope for.
We don’t know what ultimately happens to the soldier when he ships overseas,
Nor to the new bride as she awaits his return.
Ultimately, one might start to wonder if, perhaps,
— the best thing about their marriage doesn’t end up being those short 48 hours……
One very interesting thing about this movie (for me, anyway) is how the lives of the real people who played these two lovers culminated – how the force of LOVE acted upon THEIR lives……
And of course, it’s not a very happy story – for either of them…..
We all know how Judy ended up….
….after a series of very happy weddings and miserably failed divorces….
… drinking away her emotional miseries, as she drank away her considerable talents.
But , did you know the story of Robert Walker?
Walker married actress Jennifer Jones in 1939, when they were both just starting out as actors… he fell hard and deep for her…
in 1942, Jones started an affair with producer David Selznick –
and when, in 1944, Walker found out about the ongoing affair,
(and subsequently and repeatedly had his nose rubbed in it by Selznick),
he fell into a state of deep depression and despair… finally culminating in a nervous breakdown in 1949.
During this period, 1944-1951,
the man could barely act, sleep or eat… he would often spend days doing nothing but sitting in a chair and pining for “the love of his life”.
A hint of the darkness that had taken over his personality was captured on film in Hitchcock’s 1951 “Strangers on a Train”.. his on-screen character was evil yet oddly sympathetic.
His young life came to a premature end at the hands of a couple quack psychiatrists and a syringe full of amylobarbitone… a calming agent and sleep aid, at the age of 32.
Now, I don’t pretend to know that much about love…
—- but I can tell you that love ultimately killed that guy….
Because love is a stronger emotion than any other –
— it exerts a force on the human will,
and the human personality,
and the human psyche,
and the human BODY – –
— that is so powerful – that it can make your life seem worth living –
——— or make you think it isn’t.
CAUTION – Handle with extreme care.