I got nothing this week, so I figure I might as well tell the true story of how a black man in old timey Chicago created the first ever clock.
This film is directed byLee Daniels and it is super inspiring. (for this movie to work, you just have to be ok with ZERO timepieces existing before the 1920’s, so get onboard)
We see a man rushing to get ready for work. His name is Albert. He is a black man that lives in the south side of Chicago with his wife and young daughter. He is played by Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette from True Blood). His wife, Hattie is played by Kerry Washington. The daughter is irrelevant. They live in a tiny apt that is super rundown on an unsafe street.
As Albert arrives at work, a small jewelry store, his boss, Charles McDrummond the Third, admonishes him for being late. He says “you people are always late” to drive the point that he might be a touch racist. He is played by John Goodman. Albert assures him that he was right on time. He measured the time by the sun. McDrummond believes it’s a bunch of horseshit, and says something to the degree of my time is more valuable than yours or something. Anyway Albert works as a janitor at the store. He apparently is very creative though and is always making little devices and stuff around the shop to make his job easier. McDrummond doesn’t like it, but he allows it.
Albert’s father Norman, played by Laurence Fishburne tells Albert that he’ll never make it in the white man’s world. He needs to take his family back to North Carolina and take over his drug store. Albert’s thieving older brother Titus, played by Terrence Howard, wants to take control of the business, but Norman knows that Albert is the better choice, but Albert refuses he believes that one day the world wont be black and white separated.
One day at dinner with his wife, Albert tells her that he’s been working on something new. She dismisses it as another one of Albert’s newfangled failures. It’s really crude looking wooden clock. He tells her that it will keep time, so that people don’t have to. It will measure the seconds. He starts counting along with it to show how it works, but the second’s hand gets all wonky and fast and the thing falls apart. Hattie asks him why he doesn’t just give up and go take over the drug store. He says he wants more for his family than his fathers life. The next morning Albert is rushing to work yet again and when he gets to the store McDrummond is furious with him and is about to fire him. Albert asks him to please have mercy, he was up late working on something new. McDrummond says it better be good (despite having no interest in his gadgets prior). It’s that same crude clock, only this time as Albert counts along with it (in slow motion with swelling music) the seconds hand and minutes hand both change perfectly. Albert says he calls it The Clock. McDrummond asks why, Albert says he just likes the sound of it.
Anyway, a montage shows that McDrummond has begun producing more suped-up versions of the Clock for sale at his stores, and at other department stores, but the marketing materials make it appear like HE is the creator of the Clock not Albert. McDrummond tells Albert, no one would ever buy a clock if they knew a black man created it. Albert is making lots of money now and can move his family to a better home, but he still feels unsatisfied. His father and wife are super proud of him, though Titus is jealous and envious. Titus comes to Chicago and says he wants to help Albert. Against his better judgment, Titus starts helping Albert to mass-produce the Clocks. It’s clear Titus has something up his sleeve.
Because the movie needs something bad to happen, at the unveiling of McDrummond’s newest Clock store, Titus puts a poster on the window that says that the Clocks were invented by a black man (his brothers picture is on it) and it says something like “would you trust a dirt jockey (fake racist term) to keep time for you?” The crowd is flabbergasted, and McDrummond denies the allegation. Weeks go on as newspaper reporters continually go to Alberts home and harass him asking if he really is the man behind the clocks. It’s clear that if he is, the sales will plummet. Albert keeps denying it all-the-while upset that he will never get credit for his invention. He’s angry at Titus as well. However in an impassioned (best supporting actor sort of way) Titus has a huge monologue about how he messed his life up and hasn’t amounted to anything blah blah, but he’s tired of their family being nobodies. He tells him, that people might stop buying the clocks, but if the world doesn’t ever know that a black man made the clock, they might not never stop being second class citizens or something. This ignites the fire in him.
Meanwhile, McDrummonds Clock stores have been closed until this fiasco blew over. The day before the store was about to finally open, Albert goes to the store with the original old ugly clock he design. As white people are waiting at the door to go in, Albert walks up and starts telling the story of how he invented that first clock and as white people start to walk away, the speech about how he made the first ever clock transitions into a story about how he hopes one day people view race the same way they do time. Time don’t got no face, no color, no creed blah blah it’s just there. Like us people. It’s an oscar-caliber speech and we see McDrummond arrive to open the store and the crowd asks if Alberts story is true. McDrummond looks at the crowd. He looks at Albert. He looks at Titus who is inexplicably there, and he says “It’s true, and Albert’s clocks are about the damn thing to ever happen to him. For some reason the crowd cheers and they all enter the store to feverishly buy clocks. Titus smiles, lights a cigarette, and walks away.
The film fades to black and shows the real picture of Albert Washington, his family and McDrummond and says what happened to them afterwards. Then there is a stat about how many clocks are bought daily. A John Legend song plays in the credits.