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THE RECKLESS MOMENT


HoldenIsHere
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THE RECKLESS MOMENT with Joan Bennett and James Mason is starting now.

I discoverd this movie on TCM a few years ago and really like it.
I especially liked the relationship that developed between Joan Bennett and James Mason's characters.

The remake (THE DEEP END) with Tilda Swinton as the mother is also very good.

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THE RECKLESS MOMENT is an honorable mention in my list of classic 1949 titles. Truly an excellent piece of cinema. Bennett and Mason were never better. Ophuls as director-- what more could you want?

 

At this time, most glamorous female stars of her era were trying to stay young on screen, but Joan Bennett was not concerned with that. She joins Claudette Colbert (SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and THE SECRET HEART) and Joan Crawford (MILDRED PIERCE) as being someone willing to play a woman on screen with a grown daughter.

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  • 9 months later...

Although I like Bennett and Mason, I consider this movie a failure.  There is insufficient plot development to believe that the Mason character is falling in love with Bennett.  Perhaps if they had more screen time together it would have been believable.  Instead, Martin Donnelly doesn't even appear until the movie is a third over, and while we are waiting, we are subjected to endless shots of Lucia walking from room to room, smoking cigarettes, which is boring.  Additionally, Bennett is wrong for the part; she looks like a frumpy, middle-aged, suburban housewife and has no sex appeal.  The only chemistry in this movie is coming from Mason.  The book ("The Blank Wall") conveys more effectively Donnelly's growing feelings for Lucia, but she never shows any similar attraction to him.  In fact, the major theme of the book is that Lucia will soon forget Donnelly and his sacrifice, as she retreats back into  her safe middle class world -  no reckless moment for her.  But the most grievous failing of the movie is that it completely omits the major theme of the book, which is a scathing critique of the  American middle class.

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Although I like Bennett and Mason, I consider this movie a failure.  There is insufficient plot development to believe that the Mason character is falling in love with Bennett.  Perhaps if they had more screen time together it would have been believable.  Instead, Martin Donnelly doesn't even appear until the movie is a third over, and while we are waiting, we are subjected to endless shots of Lucia walking from room to room, smoking cigarettes, which is boring.  Additionally, Bennett is wrong for the part; she looks like a frumpy, middle-aged, suburban housewife and has no sex appeal.  The only chemistry in this movie is coming from Mason.  The book ("The Blank Wall") conveys more effectively Donnelly's growing feelings for Lucia, but she never shows any similar attraction to him.  In fact, the major theme of the book is that Lucia will soon forget Donnelly and his sacrifice, as she retreats back into  her safe middle class world -  no reckless moment for her.  But the most grievous failing of the movie is that it completely omits the major theme of the book, which is a scathing critique of the  American middle class.

 

I wouldn't call the movie a failure but instead a flawed film.   I agree that it is unrealistic to believe Donnelly would do what he does for Lucia because he has fallen in love with her or that by helping her she would fall in love with him.   

 

Note that Bennett isn't wrong for the part.  The director wanted her to play the part as she did and her clothes were designed to be middle-class \ middle-age looking and somewhat frumpy.    This was done to downplay the sexual attraction angle and instead subsitute it with an attraction of normalcy.    Donnelly longed to get out of the life of crime and join the 'normal' folks.   This is stressed in the scene where Donnelly feels he is not longer 'one of the boys'.  Instead he is in no man's land.   

 

So the question here is should the director and screenwriter have stuck to a more traditional type story? - Bennett plays the still sexy housewife,  ropes Donnelly into helping her using her sexuality,  and when Donnelly saves her and her family and dies,  she returns to her normal life?  

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Although I like Bennett and Mason, I consider this movie a failure.  There is insufficient plot development to believe that the Mason character is falling in love with Bennett.  Perhaps if they had more screen time together it would have been believable.  Instead, Martin Donnelly doesn't even appear until the movie is a third over, and while we are waiting, we are subjected to endless shots of Lucia walking from room to room, smoking cigarettes, which is boring.  Additionally, Bennett is wrong for the part; she looks like a frumpy, middle-aged, suburban housewife and has no sex appeal.  The only chemistry in this movie is coming from Mason.  The book ("The Blank Wall") conveys more effectively Donnelly's growing feelings for Lucia, but she never shows any similar attraction to him.  In fact, the major theme of the book is that Lucia will soon forget Donnelly and his sacrifice, as she retreats back into  her safe middle class world -  no reckless moment for her.  But the most grievous failing of the movie is that it completely omits the major theme of the book, which is a scathing critique of the  American middle class.

 

Thanks, manderstoke, for your comments.

 

I enjoyed THE RECKLESS MOMENT, but I have never read the source novel The Blank Wall.

In the movie, the viewer doesn't get the sense (or at least I don't)  that Joan Bennett's character will forget the sacrifice made by Donnelly (James Mason).  Apparently this is not the case in the book.

 

Have you seen the 2001 adaptation THE DEEP END with Tilda Swinton as the mother?

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I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this but Joan Bennett became a grandmother in her late thirties in the late forties; I think maybe even by the time she made The Reckless Moment....

 

edit- yeah, i checked imdb and found this:

 

Her first grandchild, Amanda Anderson, was born in March, 1949 to daughter Diana.

 

In that case, ooh la la: grandma had it going on.

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I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this but Joan Bennett became a grandmother in her late thirties in the late forties; I think maybe even by the time she made The Reckless Moment....

 

edit- yeah, i checked imdb and found this:

 

Her first grandchild, Amanda Anderson, was born in March, 1949 to daughter Diana.

 

In that case, ooh la la: grandma had it going on.

Just read about Joan on IMDB...what a fascinating and sometimes twisted life she led!  Especially the part where her second husband shot her agent after he caught the agent and Joan "doing it" in the agent's car....scandalous!

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Just read about Joan on IMDB...what a fascinating and sometimes twisted life she led!  Especially the part where her second husband shot her agent after he caught the agent and Joan "doing it" in the agent's car....scandalous!

 

Especially if you read just where the agent got shot. (And I don't mean the intersection in LA.)

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Although I like Bennett and Mason, I consider this movie a failure.  There is insufficient plot development to believe that the Mason character is falling in love with Bennett.  Perhaps if they had more screen time together it would have been believable.  Instead, Martin Donnelly doesn't even appear until the movie is a third over, and while we are waiting, we are subjected to endless shots of Lucia walking from room to room, smoking cigarettes, which is boring.  Additionally, Bennett is wrong for the part; she looks like a frumpy, middle-aged, suburban housewife and has no sex appeal.  The only chemistry in this movie is coming from Mason.  The book ("The Blank Wall") conveys more effectively Donnelly's growing feelings for Lucia, but she never shows any similar attraction to him.  In fact, the major theme of the book is that Lucia will soon forget Donnelly and his sacrifice, as she retreats back into  her safe middle class world -  no reckless moment for her.  But the most grievous failing of the movie is that it completely omits the major theme of the book, which is a scathing critique of the  American middle class.

 

 

I dont feel Joan is wrong for the part at all or that she lacks sex appeal. The critique of the middle class is there, but it not in your face. The film is a bit rushed and shows some cost cutting, but I think it works well as a thriller. It's not a great movie, but as a B movie type suspenser, it works pretty well.

 

In fact when one of Joan's daughters saw the film many years later (after Joan died, I think) she was struck by how the character WAS Joan.  She told Joan's biographer that was how Joan was in real life........

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Just read about Joan on IMDB...what a fascinating and sometimes twisted life she led!  Especially the part where her second husband shot her agent after he caught the agent and Joan "doing it" in the agent's car....scandalous!

 

 

I dont think that part is true. Wasnt he shot in the parking lot? They were leaving a restaurant. He later became a big producer at Universal. (Jennings Lang).

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In fact when one of Joan's daughters saw the film many years later (after Joan died, I think) she was struck by how the character WAS Joan.  She told Joan's biographer that was how Joan was in real life........

 

Interesting comments.

One aspect of the movie that really pulled me in the first time I saw THE RECKLESS MOMENT was how real Joan Bennett's reactions were in the movie ---not the melodramatics we often see in this "woman in distress" type of movie from that era.

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I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this but Joan Bennett became a grandmother in her late thirties in the late forties; I think maybe even by the time she made The Reckless Moment....

 

edit- yeah, i checked imdb and found this:

 

Her first grandchild, Amanda Anderson, was born in March, 1949 to daughter Diana.

 

In that case, ooh la la: grandma had it going on.

 

Lorna, gotta say here that while you may not know the difference between Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, I think you've got a pretty good handle on what constitutes a hot lookin' older lady! ;)

 

(...'cause I TOO think Joan had it "goin' on" in this flick AND in a lot of her later films...but then again, she always DID remind me of my wife)

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In reply to two other posts, yes, I have seen THE DEEP END and didn't much care for it.  But, I have to confess that Tilda Swinton leaves me cold on many levels.  Also, changing the plotline to her son having a homosexual relationship seemed to me like a too  transparent effort to be current and topical.  The comments about Donnelly wanting to live a "normal" life resonate with me, and I agree.  I think that Lucia's appeal for him is primarily in that he wants to live a decent life but knows that he never will.  She and her family represent that "decent" normal life.  This is ironic, given the major premise of the book.  In the book, Donnelly does seem to be smitten with her, but the chemistry is lacking in the movie.  I understand there was a scene with them in a restaurant where he reveals his feelings for her, but for some reason, this scene was cut from the final version.  The last scene in the movie (the import of which appears to have been lost on some audiences) is brilliant - Lucia has begun the work of forgetting Donnelly and eliminating the "reckless moment" from her safe, middle class life.

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The last scene in the movie (the import of which appears to have been lost on some audiences) is brilliant - Lucia has begun the work of forgetting Donnelly and eliminating the "reckless moment" from her safe, middle class life.

 

I don't see the last scene of the movie as evidence of the beginning of Joan Bennett's character forgetting Donnelly. In fact, I see just the opposite, that the memory of Donnelly will be with her for the rest of her life. Of course, I bring my own experiences to the viewing of the movie (just as other viewers bring their own experiences), but the emotional overlay in her remark to her husband on the phone about the blue Christmas tree belies the cheeriness of her words.

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My interpretation that Lucia will quickly forget Donnelly is heavily influenced by the book.  The author is very clear that Lucia's personality is so submerged by her family demands that she is only barely capable of acting independently.  She is an iconic figure in the author's critique of the American middle class, with its emphasis on conformity and respectability, and de-emphasis of individuality or any challenge to societal norms.  Ironically, Donnelly's ultimate sacrifice only serves to preserve the daughter's reputation, as the evidence against her or Lucia is much too weak to put them at risk for criminal prosecution.  Interesting, is it not, that the values of a smalltime grifter seem rather more noble than those of his  victim.

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I don't see the last scene of the movie as evidence of the beginning of Joan Bennett's character forgetting Donnelly. In fact, I see just the opposite, that the memory of Donnelly will be with her for the rest of her life. Of course, I bring my own experiences to the viewing of the movie (just as other viewers bring their own experiences), but the emotional overlay in her remark to her husband on the phone about the blue Christmas tree belies the cheeriness of her words.

 

 

Yes, I feel that way too. She wont forget it, but it will be a secret she'll never divulge to anyone.......she'll put on a good face.

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Yes, I feel that way too. She wont forget it, but it will be a secret she'll never divulge to anyone.......she'll put on a good face.

 

Yes. And I love the way Joan Bennett captures that aspect many of us are lucky to recognize from our own mothers. That protect at any cost, but don't dare mention what you had to do in going about it.

 

And never in front of the help.

 

(I joke of course, but as I recall it, Joan has a "domestic" in The Reckless Moment who is actually a pretty pivotal figure and it's a good role that adds a layer to the film.

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Yes. And I love the way Joan Bennett captures that aspect many of us are lucky to recognize from our own mothers. That unspoken "protect at any cost, but don't dare mention what you had to do in going about it"" coda held by the best of mothers.

 

(And never in front of the help.)

 

(I joke of course, but as I recall it, Joan has a "domestic" in The Reckless Moment who is actually a pretty pivotal figure and it's a good role that adds a layer to the film.)

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Yes. And I love the way Joan Bennett captures that aspect many of us are lucky to recognize from our own mothers. That protect at any cost, but don't dare mention what you had to do in going about it.

 

And never in front of the help.

 

(I joke of course, but as I recall it, Joan has a "domestic" in The Reckless Moment who is actually a pretty pivotal figure and it's a good role that adds a layer to the film.

 

 

Yes, I forget her name, but the maid was quite savvy and helpful in a pinch! Yes, all in a days work for mom! (Who said Father Knows Best? LOL)....

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