Ray Milland did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George Stroud in The Big Clock.
This film was later re-made as No Way Out, with Kevin Costner as the "wrong man", where that film was an overt thriller this film is not. It's actual a rather curious film that examines corporate politics of a magazine as much as it follows the murder plot. Our wrong man, George Stroud is very different from say the wrong man Milland played earlier in Ministry of Fear. Milland plays a man whose not on the run, but rather finds himself stuck within the claustrophobia of an ever shrinking sky scraper. The initial scenes of the film are of a man who isn't in any particular dismay except his inability to choose his family over his work first. Milland grants his typical charm to the role which as usual has a certain ease about it. This is particularly effective in this role as he makes Stroud not overly concerned in any point in the early scenes. He rather paint a man who haplessly falls into the thriller by simply not giving up on the connections of his job. Again Milland presents this with no malice or an exact callousness. He rather presents more as a carelessness of a man as his reaction illustrate a man who is trying to keep his job almost in spite of himself. Milland manages to capture this certain hypocrisy well by making it more of a lower key societal constriction more than anything else.
Stroud becomes entrapped within the plot so to speak by attempting collusion with the mistress of his boss Janoth (Charles Laughton). This technically could be a more overtly morally questionable element, however Milland realizes this interest well as more of a mild curiosity than real passion on his part. He brings just enough of a glint of real duplicity in his eyes to create the notion of his motivation, but only a glint to still keep Stroud as a generally decent man. His brief encounter with the mistress though leaves him to be the fall man for Janoth, well really Janoth's right hand man's, plan to cover Janoth's murder of his mistress. The fall man though is unknown to everyone except Stroud with Janoth trying to figure out the mysterious fall man, who he saw leaving his mistress's apartment, by having Stroud himself investigate the clues internally in the company. Well with that complex plot ready, and a murder having occurred you'd think the film would kick into a high gear. Well not so much as the film makes it far more a comedy of errors, despite that murder, than the thriller you'd expect. The comedy of errors is found through the strange personalities connected to the company, but also with Stroud bizarre position as trying to find the real murderer while leading the false investigation to find himself.
Milland's performance is key to realizing this strange situation, and to make it work within the film without leading the tone to become too unwieldy. Milland's low key approach from the start aids this greatly as he makes it feel natural that Stroud wouldn't be more upset by the situation by making it the genuine type of person he is. Now Milland does create the right internalized tension however he limits it. He off-sets this instead by bringing a certain glibness in his reactions and deliveries that allude so well to the man's situation that is darkly comical. Milland plays with that idea well by showing that strange effort in his moments of the investigation of a man's whose heart isn't quite in it against trying to find the real killer where he paints a stronger conviction. Milland most of all though becomes a mediator of sorts between the colorful people he comes across throughout the film. Milland's interactions creates the right grounding in each by portraying so well every moment of Stroud using the unique characters to help clue him towards his proper conclusion. Again Milland has just the right bit of fun in this in his reactions properly amplifying some of these strange sorts by showing a humorous yet honest reaction to them. The two interactions that defy this though are with his wife, and the real culprit and his collaborator. In these moments Milland grants the right urgency in his performance reflecting Stroud without being able to sort of distance himself through the tragic comedy of the situation otherwise. In the moments with his wife Milland conveys so well the unease of the situation and just the right hints of guilt of a man who was working against his wife's desires. With Laughton, and George Macready as the right hand man, Milland brings out much more the hero you'd expect from a story in his passionate though desperate manner in the final confrontation. This approach though works as a proper progression of Stroud as he uncovers the plot. This is very good leading turn by Milland, which is no surprise, as he effectively both subverts the nature of the role a bit, while also still fulfilling what is typically expected.