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In New York City, a young model is swept off her feet by a debonair, handsome young man. Unfortunately for her, he didn't want to get married but had been stringing her along. When she realizes he doesn't WANT her she will not force him even though she learned she was pregnant. She becomes bitter and angry at all men, until she meets a gentle and kind artist who tries to show her that her life can be better than it is. Written by
Early Depression drama with a good cast and script
"The Reckless Hour" appeared in theaters in August 1931. That was nearly two years into the Great Depression that had gripped the industrial world. Hollywood had always done a lot of comedy, but now it was cranking out comedy films along with musicals and other films with gaiety and laughter. Audiences that did or didn't have money to spend on entertainment, surely didn't want to spend it watching morose movies about gloom and doom. This was a time when people needed things to help lift their spirits. This may seem far-fetched to audiences of the 21st century, but it was very real for people of the 1930s who lost jobs, incomes, businesses, houses, farms, and, in many cases, hope.
Yet, Hollywood still produced some dramatic films. A common element of those included the wealthy, high society, and the fun life. Audiences could still dream about the good life a life that most would never really achieve or see. And, mostly those serious films about the rich and worldly had a tragic element to them. The message was that all was not sunshine and gaiety at the top.
"The Reckless Hour" has the usual appeal to riches. The film seems to be set in a time when there wasn't a depression. I would guess that models and jewelry clerks would have been among the least employed during that time. Yet, here we have Dorothy Mackaill and Joan Blondell in just such jobs. Mackaill's Margaret Nichols is the model, while Blondell plays her sister, Myrtle. It's through Margaret's job that this film acquires its riches theme.
I won't divulge the story more here, but just note that this is a surprisingly good morality play. It bursts the bubble of the idea that wealth is everything and brings happiness. The title hints at what is to come. It's a story about hope, decency, mistakes, forgiveness, family, selfishness and charity, kindness and sacrifice. In its own way, this film could lift the spirits of audiences.
The attention given this film for being "pre-code" seems nothing more than a marketing effort today. While there is a situation that could be very scandalous in that day and time, it is only alluded to in the film. And, it's important to the plot, and as an example of the culture and mores of the time.
All of the cast give good performances. Mackaill was a dramatic actress who starred in many silent films of the 1920s. She made the transition to sound with several good films in the early 1930s. But, the rise of many new talented and attractive stars diminished her demand and she retired from films by the mid-1930s. Blondell, on the other hand, was more diversified, and her movie career would last until her death at age 73 in 1979. She played in many comedies, but was also very good in dramas, musicals and other genres. Walter Byron's career also started in the silent era and came to an early end by the start of the 1940s.
This is a good film for a look at these and some other good actors who graced many films into the mid-20th century, but who today are little known. Conrad Nagel, H.B. Warner and Claude King had very good careers in movies.
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