Lawson Art Deco clocks were made at three locations, all close to Hollywood. So why aren’t these stylish timepieces seen in the movies? Turns out, they are.
The Black Cat (May 3, 1934) Not very similar to Edgar Allan Poe’s story, Universal’s The Black Cat combined both Karloff and Lugosi with Art Deco plus a dash of necrophilia. This was a winning combination and The Black Cat was Universal’s top grosser for 1934. I find it a yawn, but without question the Art Deco sets are fabulous. Briefly, Bella Lugosi comes looking for his wife, who he believes to be living in a big Art Deco house with Boris Karloff. Unfortunately, Bella’s only half-right. His wife is indeed hanging around the house but…you’ll never guess…she’s not alive. All is not lost however, as Karloff has kept the young lady in remarkably good, “showroom” condition.
I almost forgot about the clock. This is, I believe, the first on-screen appearance of a Lawson clock. If you look closely, you’ll see the numerals are in the style drawn by inventor Frederick Greenawalt for his patent. Very early Pennwood clocks used this “font” for the numbers but I had not seen them on a Lawson until an unusual model 14 showed up (see below.) This clock is unique in a number of ways and I’ll do a separate post for those who care about such things. What’s interesting here is that it establishes Lawson Clocks Limited was in business in early 1934.
He Walked By Night (November 24, 1948) Thanksgiving 1948 got off to a happy and wholesome start with the release of He Walked By Night, a very dark, late film noir starring Richard Basehart. While Basehart is completely convincing as a psychopath, he has to share the limelight with the Los Angeles storm drain system which he uses to escape from his crime scenes. He Walked By Night has it all–senseless killing, voiceovers by Reed Hadley, the ever-reliable Whit Bissell and the head of the crime lab at police headquarters is none other than Jack Webb.
In this scene, a trap has been set for Roy (Basehart). Roy’s told Paul Reeves (Bissell) to have some cash ready, and to expect him around 8pm. Whit Bissell nervously checks the time on his trusty Lawson 73. Curiously, this a a pre-war, 1930s clock in a post-war movie.
What about TV? Check out the M Squad episode, Model In The Lake (May 15, 1959). That’s actress Barbara Darrow, who’s resume included 1956’s The Mountain, a great movie with Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner and some lesser efforts like The Monster That Challenged The World and Queen Of Outer Space. Ms. Darrow’s character is about to meet an untimely end, but not before we get a good look at a Lawson “Southerner” model 215.
Star Trek Into Darkness (stardate 5.16.2013) I’ve already done a post on this recent Lawson sighting of a Lawson Zephyr. This clock, which was NOT DESIGNED BY KEM WEBER (except on eBay) must have been one of Lawson’s most popular. Although an older Zephyr was used in Star Trek, these clocks were made both before and after World War II.
I’m sure there have been other Lawson appearences. Let me know.