For someone who loves books with as much passion as she does old cinema, it’s hardly surprising, perhaps, that I get especially excited when I discover a screen adaptation of a book I like—or vice-versa.
Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Kenneth Fearing’s novel The Big Clock. I had never heard of it before, and the first couple of chapters of the book didn’t endear me to it: too dry, too full of journalistic jargon, too business-y. But I persevered, and suddenly, the story took a turn that caught me by surprise. And then it became such a gripping, unputdownable book that I ended up racing through it, eager to see where it would go.
… which was why, when I found it had been also made into a film, I approached the cinematic The Big Clock with some trepidation: would they have been able to do justice to it?
As it turned out, yes. More than justice.
The Big Clock centres round a mammoth publication company, named Janoth Publications, after its owner, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). Janoth Publications is housed in a multistory building, each floor being devoted to one publication churned out by the behemoth: Styleways, Sportways, Newsways, and so on—and, the publication which becomes the focus of this story, Crimeways. As its name suggests, Crimeways is devoted to crime reporting, and is headed by George Stroud (Ray Milland).