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The Reckless Moment (1949)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,353 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 24 critic

After discovering the dead body of her teenage daughter's lover, a housewife takes desperate measures to protect her family from scandal.

Director:

(as Max Opuls)

Writers:

(adaptation), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Geraldine Brooks ...
Bea Harper
Henry O'Neill ...
Tom Harper
Shepperd Strudwick ...
Ted Darby
David Bair ...
David Harper
...
Nagel
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Storyline

In the charming community of Balboa 50 miles from Los Angeles, middle-class housewife Lucia Harper travels to Los Angeles to meet scoundrel, Ted Darby. Her seventeen year-old daughter Beatrice is in love with Ted. He asks for money to leave Bea, but Lucia refuses to give any. Bea does not believe her mother when told and during the night she sneaks out to the boat garage to meet Ted who admits that Lucia told the truth. Bea pushes him and Ted falls to his on an anchor. The next morning, Lucia finds the body and assumes that Bea has killed her lover. She decides to get rid of the corpse and puts it in her boat and dumps it far from home. When the police find Ted, a stranger, Martin Donnelly, visits Lucia to blackmail her on behalf of his partner, Nagel who has several letters Bea had written to Ted. Donnelly wants $5000 for the letters. The desperate Lucia tries to raise the amount. Martin falls in love with Lucia and tries to help her too. The dangerous Nagel wants to receive the ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 December 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Blank Wall  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Mason said that when Columbia refused to director 'Max Ophuls' the permission to light simultaneously two large and separate sets, to allow a long dolly shot from one place to the other, he thought that "Ophuls could not smile anymore from this day." See more »

Quotes

Bea Harper: When you're seventeen today, you know what the score is.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Maternal Overdrive (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

The Fragile Surface of Middle-Class Life
1 May 2003 | by (Out there in the dark) – See all my reviews

Burnett Guffey's fluid camera pulls the viewer into THE RECKLESS MOMENT, grasping and constantly renewing our gaze. Lucia's (Joan Bennett)lakeside house seems impossibly enormous and labyrinthine as the heroine moves through it in a near-somnabulistic state. The camera's grip on the viewer is no less powerful when Lucia goes outside the house: this is because the dangerous outer world has invaded the safe American family home. For 80 minutes, the two worlds will be inseparable.

Others here have praised Joan Bennett's performance. It is also of interest to note that this is Bennett's transitional picture from single woman to matriarch. One year earlier, the actress appeared in THE SCAR, a still-underrated, oppressively dark film noir in which she is not a femme fatale--as she had so memorably been in SCARLET STREET and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW--but a lonely doctor's receptionist drawn into the shadowy scheme of her lover/employer. Beginning with THE RECKLESS MOMENT, Bennett would go on to embody several maternal characters: among the most noteworthy would be in the next film, FATHER OF THE BRIDE.

The mother character is important here because it re-casts the family melodrama in Post-War terms. It is the mother, not the absent, disembodied father, who must restore the normality of her household. This is no weak, helpless woman. Lucia demonstrates assurance and bravery from the very beginning, as she enters the seedy underworld of Ted Darby, her young daughter's lover, played brilliantly by a virtually ignored Sheppard Strudwick. Later, when things go horribly wrong, Lucia never tells her husband about it. It is up to her to maintain a grip on the safe veneer of middle-class life.

At every turn, Bennett is matched by James Mason as Martin Donnelly. This a role Mason would be better know for, if this film had any real circulation apart from pirated video copies. For some reviewers, Martin is the most interesting character: his development is far more dramatic and thorough than that of the heroine. Mason is completely inside Donnelly and forces the viewer to believe the transition.

The film's supporting cast has little to criticize apart from David Blair as Lucia's incredibly annoying son. The seemingly ubiquitous Roy Roberts makes a authentically frightening villain. And Geraldine Brooks shows why this actress was so often cast in films during this period. There are several bit players to be noted: Kathryn Card and William Schallert, to name a couple. who, like Strudwick and Bennett herself would go on to later careers on the small screen.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT is badly in need of restoration and distribution on home video.


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