That's the dandy premise behind The Big Clock, a smart 1948 suspense film sometimes misclassified as a film noir. Ray Milland stars as the protagonist, who explains his predicament via voiceover in the opening scene and then flashes back to 36 hours earlier.
|Ray Milland as George Stroud.|
Instead of meeting his family at the train depot, Stroud commiserates with Pauline. They visit several bars, stop at an antique shop, and wind up at her apartment. She nudges a tipsy Stroud out the side door when Janoth arrives unexpectedly. When Pauline berates Janoth during an argument, he flies into a rage and kills her.
Janoth turns to Steve Hagen (George Macready), his second-in-command, who covers up the crime. The only problem is that Janoth saw a man standing in the shadows outside Pauline's apartment door. He and Macready decide to pin the murder on the mysterious stranger...assuming they can find him. And who better to track down a suspected killer than George Stroud?
|Laughton and mustache.|
The standouts in the cast are Rita Johnson as Janoth's mistress and Harry Morgan as a masseuse who doubles as a killer. Morgan doesn't have a line of dialogue, but lurks creepily in the background as Stroud and his team conduct inquiries. I was expecting an exciting confrontation when he encounters Stroud inside the "clock room" of the Janoth building. Alas, one punch knocks Morgan's character down some stairs and he never appears again.
|Note Harry Morgan lurking between Macready and Milland.|
|Ray Milland and Rita Johnson.|
|Milland inside the big clock.|
|Sean Young and Kevin Costner.|