When soldier Joe Allen (Robert Walker) arrives in New York City to start his 48-hour leave, he happens to meet secretary Alice Maybery (Judy Garland) when she trips over his foot and breaks her shoe. After he helps her get her shoe taken care of, Alice and Joe spend the afternoon together, visiting New York landmarks such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Before they part, they make a date to meet later that night underneath the clock at the Astor Hotel.
Back at her apartment, Alice tells her roommate about the soldier she’s just met. While Alice is thrilled about the new man in her life, her roommate cautions her about picking up strange soldiers. But she ignores her roommate’s advice and keeps her date with Joe. They share a wonderful night together that results in them losing track of time and missing the last bus of the night. But with a stroke of luck, they end up catching a ride with milkman Al Henry (James Gleason). The young couple accompanies Al on his milk deliveries, which don’t end until the very early hours of the morning.
As Alice and Joe start their second day together, their minds move towards marriage. They want to be married that very day, before Joe has to go back on duty. However, they fail to account for the time it would take to get the mandatory blood test. But Joe and Alice are nothing if not persistent and they spend the day running around town trying to get their blood test rushed and manage to get it done just in the nick of time. The judge marries them right there in his office. However, the experience feels so rushed that Alice hardly feels like she’s really married. As they leave, they pass by a church where a wedding has just ended and step inside to repeat their vows. This time, it feels more real for Alice and when Joe leaves the next day, they part feeling like a real husband and wife.
Not only was The Clock the only non-musical film Judy Garland made during her time at MGM, it was one of the few movies of her entire career she doesn’t sing in. When it was released in 1945, it wasn’t a hit with audiences because they were disappointed in the lack of singing. It’s too bad audiences were so unwilling to give it a chance at the time, because they missed out on a really sweet story. Judy Garland and Robert Walker had surprisingly good chemistry together and it’s easy to be charmed by them. Lack of singing aside, I can see how some people might be frustrated by this movie, though. A lot of people really like movies to have firmly defined endings and The Clock‘s ending is left quite open. I don’t mind open endings, but part of me wishes there was a sequel to The Clock just because I think a movie about Joe returning from the war and how he and Alice adjust to life as a married couple after their whirlwind courtship could have been just as interesting as The Clock was.