RECKLESS has a fantastic cast. Any movie with Jean Harlow, William Powell, Franchot Tone, and Rosalind Russell is worth watching, and RECKLESS is no exception.
Unfortunately these fine actors are stuck in a subpar story, created by the film's producer, David O. Selznick. There were also writing contributions from reputable names such as Norman Krasna and Donald Ogden Stewart; P.J. Wolfson has the screenplay credit. Alas, this wasn't one of the better efforts of those involved.
The scenario of RECKLESS concerns Broadway musical star Mona Leslie (Harlow), who falls in love with a wealthy drinker named Bob Harrison (Tone). Bob's a lot of fun until he and Mona elope, and then he's overcome with remorse for jilting lovely, refined Jo (Russell) and marrying an actress who doesn't fit in his social circles.
It's tempting to go into more detail on the storyline, as this is one of those movies where the plot convolutions cause the viewer to periodically exclaim "Seriously?!" The movie is a bit schizophrenic, with bizarre-yet-gripping plot twists juxtaposed with draggy, pointless scenes. For instance, it's hard to understand why the film's focus shifts, after Mona's marriage, to Ned's financial troubles, which add nothing to the overall story or the eventual outcome. They're just filler. The shenanigans of Ned's loyal assistants (Nat Pendleton and Ted Healy) could also have been toned down.
The filmmakers should have instead focused more on Mona and Bob, as the changes in their relationship are very abrupt; barring that, this 97-minute movie could have at least been pared down to 90 minutes!
LIBELED LADY (1936) the following year. Powell, unfortunately, doesn't get to do much but be a nice guy perpetually waiting in the wings -- literally!
Tone has quite a bit to do, but what a mess of a character! We know he has troubles early on, as he's a heavy drinker and he alludes to being unhappy in conversation with Mona, but it's a bit hard to fathom why he would pursue Mona so doggedly and then completely fall to pieces once he has her. Apparently he saw her only as mistress material and hadn't counted on being drunk enough to marry her. Bob becomes one angry man, which is a little hard to understand -- sure, he may be ostracized by his social circle, but after all, he's got Jean Harlow!
Allan Jones sings in a Harlow rehearsal sequence. The cast also includes May Robson, Henry Stephenson and James Ellison.
This film was directed by Victor Fleming and filmed in black and white by George Folsey.
RECKLESS is available in a remastered print from the Warner Archive, sold as either a standalone title or as part of the seven-film The Jean Harlow Collection. The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.
The remastered print has a couple of brief, noticeable rough patches; I suspect the surviving materials must have been in fairly bad shape. Most of the movie looks very good.
Reviews posted to date of other films in the Jean Harlow Collection: BOMBSHELL (1933), THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934), and PERSONAL PROPERTY (1937).
RECKLESS was also released on VHS.
RECKLESS is also shown on TCM. The trailer is on the TCM website.