The Big Clock

The Big Clock features a rotund, time-obsessed media mogul named Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), who presides with ruthless efficiency over a Hearst-like media empire. His building's lobby boasts—in addition to the big clock itself—many smaller clocks telling the time in Janoth's 43 foreign bureaus (bureaus that stretch "from Reykjavik to Cairo, Moscow to Buenos Aires") as well as a statue of Atlas, weight of the world on his shoulders, muscles straining at the difficult task of carrying around reality as humans know it. But, oh, what a profitable task this carrying of reality to its proper destination can be! Style Ways, News Ways, Crime Ways—these and other popular titles have brought Mr. Janoth a considerable fortune, although a new "recession" in circulation is worrying him. "Dynamic angles!" he barks during a meeting early on in the film. "We live in a dynamic age, gentlemen, with dynamic competitors—radio, newspapers, newsreels. We must anticipate trends before they are trends. We are, in effect, clairvoyants." Murder and mystery ensue, and both are well worth the time it takes to resolve, but the most delightful part of the movie has already passed. It is, quite simply, the sad absurdity of the proposition that any lumbering, giant, Hearst-like institution, then or now, could ever be dynamic enough for a truly dynamic age.


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