User Reviews (21)

Add a Review

  • blanche-225 September 2005
    William Powell, Jean Harlow, and May Robson are absolute delights in "Reckless," a movie which starts out on the light side and then suddenly turns into a drama, continues down the drama road and ends at melodrama, '30s style. Powell and Harlow have wonderful chemistry. Both were natural, charismatic, and energetic performers. May Robson is a riot as Granny, and her scenes with Powell are gems.

    Franchot Tone plays a millionaire playboy crazy over Harlow; Powell loves her but doesn't come out and say it. It's a very old formula, but that doesn't matter. The film is interspersed with several musical numbers that aren't particularly inspiring. Harlow's singing is dubbed, and I suspect the actual dancing parts of her dancing were also. Who cares - she just radiated beauty, warmth, and vulnerability in everything she did. The musical sections were apparently thrown in after the film was made.

    I can't write for anyone else, but I was surprised when the film made its dramatic turn - and without giving anything away, particularly surprised Harlow went for it, until I read that she turned the film down because of it. William Powell convinced her to take the role. By the end of the film, we're in melodrama land. But the two stars pull it off, though it is truly ridiculous.

    A young Rosalind Russell has a supporting role and essays it beautifully. It's not a great movie, but the people in it surely are.
  • bkoganbing27 October 2007
    Although Jean Harlow disliked playing this part in Reckless because she was a friend of Libby Holman on whom her part is based, she did it anyway, because it was a great part and she turned in a great performance. It was also her first of two films with William Powell whom she was going to marry at the time she died.

    No doubt the notoriety of the Zachary Smith Reynolds suicide which was in the presence of Ms. Holman, well known torch singer from the twenties was a wonderful story. Can you see the wheels turning in Louis B. Mayer's mind? Star Jean Harlow in this film, also because of her own suicide scandal involving her late husband, Paul Bern. This can't miss at the box office and it didn't.

    Of course if the film were made today, it would also include Libby Holman's lesbian affairs. As the Code was now in place, that was an aspect that MGM couldn't film in Reckless.

    Although Harlow is clearly in the lead, Franchot Tone also got one of his best roles as the young millionaire from the horsey set who's not wrapped too tight although that's not apparent at first. For once his part from MGM did not include just wearing tails and being charming.

    Of the leads William Powell is clearly in third place, he just has to be dapper and supportive as the family lawyer for Harlow and grandmother May Robson. He gets to do a great drunk act though. Speaking of Robson her part in Reckless probably led to her being cast as Janet Gaynor's grandmother in A Star Is Born.

    This was an early film for Rosalind Russell who plays the girl Tone jilts when he marries Harlow. She plays it nice and supportive. Russell did China Seas as well with Harlow and in her memoirs, she says that Harlow was a kind, generous, and supportive to a new kid on the lot. Who could know she would be dead within two years.

    Reckless is one of Jean Harlow's best acted parts in her career. Fans of her and Franchot Tone should not miss this film by any means.
  • This really seems like a Marion Davies vehicle: comedienne who really can't dance or sing is called upon to do so (but her songs are dubbed). This one has ornate, ridiculous-but-not-Busby Berkely routines, and the usual good, almost artistic, direction by Victor Fleming. But it also has William Powell and Jean Harlow! I've never seen Powell more relaxed and fun; he has obvious chemistry not just with Harlow but with May Robson as Granny! The scenes between him and May are a delight. And Harlow's acting is great! So it's a must-see for fans of Powell and Harlow. Just be prepared, the musical scenes are a joke, and the final scene is so ill-conceived it's a let-down. Otherwise, this is first-rate.
  • Even with big stars and an expensive production with songs by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein this is a minor film reworking of the Libby Holman tragedy. Powell is fine but in the background as is Rosalind in an early film where she is still in her grand lady phase. Ever the trouper Jean does what she can in a part for which she is hopelessly ill suited. She was aware of her limitations as much as anyone but went ahead with this even after expressing her doubts because it provided an opportunity for her to work with Bill Powell with whom she was personally involved. She does fine in the dramatic portions and is snappy at the beginning but she was no singer and is obviously dubbed. As a dancer well...she was a fine comedienne.
  • ...this movie rapidly descends into maudlin melodrama that is practically unwatchable. The movie starts out with promise with a feisty Granny Lesie (May Robson) pulling a rather hung over Ned Riley (William Powell) out of bed to bail playful star Mona Leslie (Jean Harlow) out of jail. These early scenes would make any fan of these three want to stick around for more, but believe me, you'll regret that decision. Things go downhill rapidly when Mona meets avid fan and drunken playboy Bob Harrison Jr. (Franchot Tone), whose enthusiasm wanes and drunkenness worsens after the two are hastily married. Every indignity you can think of is flung at Harlow's character at a time in Harlow's life when she herself had recently been through a great personal tragedy, and you just get the feeling that MGM is using that tragedy to sell movie tickets. It really is a sad spectacle for any Harlow fan.

    The melodrama grows to ridiculous proportions by the end of the film, with Mona Leslie even being booed by fans and her giving a preposterous on stage speech as a result. All of this just crowds out any promise with which the film started. Avoid this one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As I got into this film I began to sense that something was wrong with it. So, I consulted IMDb and quickly concluded what the problem was by simply looking at how it was classed -- as a "drama - musical - comedy". There's the problem, the film doesn't quite know what it is. A drama can have aspects that are humorous, and a comedy can have its serious moments, but when it comes right down to it, most films have to be primarily one type...and this isn't.

    There's an overly-long production number early on in the film, which though important to the plot, should have been much shorter. The scenes in the fun-house were quite clever and interesting, and reminded me of fun-houses I experienced as a child back in the 1950s. William Powell plays a sort of thinmanesque character here, with his best scene perhaps being when he professes his love for the Jean Harlow character, not realizing she has fallen asleep in the hammock. Franchot Tone plays the heavy-drinking, likable playboy...a role that he was often typecast in.

    So, things are going happily, funnily, and musically along (and, in my view, boringly)until almost exactly half-way through the film, when suddenly it transforms itself into a drama. Franchot Tone realizes he is still in love with his former fiancé, Jean Harlow realizes Tone is not really in love with her, and suddenly Tone commits suicide. Not to mention that Harlow is secretly pregnant. Now, don't get me wrong, but up until it turned into a drama, I wasn't enjoying the film. Once it became a drama, it got quite interesting.

    Some of the supporting actors here are interesting. A pre-Andy Hardy Mickey Rooney is quite good. May Robson is superb as the grandmother. Rosiland Russel has a small, but key role, and you may not recognize her because of how young she is here. Henry Stephenson comes across as the bad father of Franchot Tone, but redeems himself as the film comes to a conclusion, and he is a welcome presence in any film. There are two "mugs" in the film -- Nat Pendleton, who is interesting, and Ted Healy (of Three Stooges fame), who is not.

    So, I gave this film 5 stars out of 10, because half of the film is interesting.
  • we27 February 2008
    Laughs, cheers and tears

    This 1936 MGM production has much going for it. Again Harlow rules. Harlow’s performance featuring her unparalleled comedic timing, dancing, and most of all pathos sets the pace for excellent support from the ever smooth Bill Powell. This winner was directed by Victor Fleming (Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind etc), and written by David O Selznick (Portrait of Jenny, Duel in the Sun etc). A very young 15 year old Mickey Rooney has an unbilled 2 walk-ons and shows what will come as he progresses up his ladder to stardom. Supporting these are a glib Nat Pendleton, and Ted Healy as Powell’s pals. Healy by the way gave a start to the 3 Stooges in his vaudeville act. But that’s another story. Allan Jones has a singing number here. MGM thought well enough of him to give him a staring roll to Irene Dunne in the following years great production of Show Boat, another must see extravaganza. This film is not a comedy though it starts out as one. Developing quickly into a drama, and eventually a tragedy. Reckless is lavish and is not to be missed. Bring some Kleenex. Again Harlow rules.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This starts off as an innocuous pleasure. Harlow & Powell both sparkle, the musical numbers are enjoyable, and "Granny" is delightfully comic. Some of the other supporting players are also excellent, including a really young Rosalind Russell. You'll also see Mickey Rooney when he was just a kid actor--no shtick.

    Was this movie written by a committee? Suddenly with a thud, or, you might say, a bang, the movies crashes into melodrama-land. I've never seen such a jarring shift, and totally unbelievable. You feel you've been totally had, and the slight compensations the movie offers are just not worth it. Don't just pass on this movie--boycott it.
  • It was one of the first Harlow movies I saw. Don't laugh, but I actually cried towards the end. But that's just me, I cried when I saw Saratoga too. I watch them again and again and I never get tired of them. I'm only 20 and I feel like I've been watching these movies forever.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you enjoy identifying actors in cameo roles, this movie might interest you. Spotting the likes of Mickey Rooney, Leon Ames, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont and Paul Fix saved this movie for me. If it weren't for that little game, I'd have regarded this film as a total waste - of both my time and a deep, talented cast.

    The film slowly develops a plot that never seems to gel, and the characters are all very one-dimensional, except Franchot Tone, who delivers a reasonable performance. However, his character's fate comes out of the blue, and is the point at which the tone of the story veers sharply in a bizarre way.

    The early, light comedy part of this movie is pretty aimless, and it jumps around a lot. The second half of the movie is like a completely different film spliced onto the first half. It, too, meanders; but unlike the first half, it is maudlin and melodramatic.

    The final scene is preposterous. The supposed-to-be climactic speech by Harlow would not come close to turning a hostile audience in her favor. She repeats a few generalized statements that, no doubt, everybody had read many times in the press coverage of the scandal. Talk about rehash!

    Oh yeah, there are quite a few discontinuities, too, for those of you who can entertain yourselves by spotting them. There is a shot of Tone's yacht in broad daylight, an intervening interior scene, and then Harlow and Tone go out onto the deck in darkest night, without the slightest suggestion of any time having passed.

    I was drawn to this film when I saw the incredible cast. How did Victor Fleming and this impressive cast deliver such a malaise of a film? Chalk it up to the writers, I guess.
  • Jean Harlow can be funny and likable in such delectable classics as "Dinner at Eight", "The Girl From Missouri", "Red-Headed Woman", "Platinum Blonde", among others. But she is wasted in "Reckless", a surprisingly plodding and undernourished comedy-musical-melodrama, made for MGM and David O. Selznick, directed by Victor Fleming. Harlow's Mona Leslie, a Broadway singer whose reckless affairs with rich playboy (Franchot Tone) leads to scandal and jealousy, is one of her weakest performances. William Powell plays her secret admirer who rescues her from carelessness. May Robson is the maid whose delightful banter with Powell is one of the few likable moments in the film. As in "Personal Property" and the overrated "Libeled Lady", the film offers nothing more than its earnestly plush and overproduced MGM look. And it is obvious from the beginning that Harlow is uncomfortable with this mush; her singing and musical numbers, mostly dubbed, are highly forgettable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Apparently when this debuted it was a box office dud. And, apparently Jean Harlow was offended because she thought the studio deliberately put parallels into the script that mirrored her tragic marriage to a man who died under suspicious circumstances (even today, no one seems exactly sure what happened to her husband, Paul Bern). What is obvious is that Harlow should have been offended as the script clearly takes advantage of Bern's death. Now if the film had come out shortly after this tragedy, perhaps the studio could have been excused as they might have been able to claim that they made such a film to help Harlow's image (after all, like the character in the film, the public COULD have blamed Harlow for his death). But, with a three year gap between them, it's obvious they were just trying to exploit the tragedy for ticket sales--and I am surprised that apparently William Powell was able to convince Harlow to play this part. Frankly, based on the end results, I think she should have faced suspension and refused! Now this isn't because all the film is bad--but the ending is just god-awful and makes the entire film come off as rather seedy and stupid.

    It's important to note that after the film was completed, a total idiot at the studio thought they should add some song and dance numbers--even though Harlow was incapable of doing either--especially sing. Since she couldn't sing, they dubbed another's voice and the end result is, without a doubt, the WORST job of dubbing in the history of Hollywood. At first, I really did think that they deliberately did it badly as a parody--but later, at the end, is a supposedly poignant moment and once again, her lips aren't even close to being in sync and the voice is so obviously another's. Heck, had they used Paul Robson's voice, I don't it would have come off much worse!! As far as the story goes, the first 90% of the film (aside from the singing and dancing) isn't bad even if it is taking full advantage of the Bern tragedy (as well as the death Libby Holman's husband--which is even closer to the plot of this film than the Harlow/Bern death). Harlow plays an actress who is very much like herself. When she meets a rich society guy (Franchot Tone), they fall in love and soon marry--much to the consternation of her agent (William Powell--who really was in love with Harlow in real life). However, things are not rosy, as Tone's father and many society folk don't accept a common actress. But, Harlow handles it very well and soon the society swells warm up to her. However, Tone is a complete loser and spends all his time drinking and moping--and regretting marrying Harlow. Instead, he thinks back to his old fiancée (Rosalind Russell) and wishes he'd married her. Russell is classy and from an old established family--and Tone seems much more concerned about this than whether or not his wife loves or respects him. Eventually, Tone becomes so depressed that he kills himself (just like Holman and Harlow's husbands). And, the rich society swells turn on Harlow even though she is practically angelic in how she handles this. All this leads to her returning to the stage and a completely horrible ending that simply made me cringe.

    The bottom line is that the actors try their best but the script is horrid (in spots) and the singing is cringe-worthy. It's sad, as without the terrible ending and singing, I would have given this one a 7. As it is, 4 is probably a bit charitable. Worth seeing because it's so awful and exploitative but not a good film by any standard.
  • st-shot14 December 2011
    Jean Harlow shows she can neither dance or sing well in Reckless, A Selznick driven production cynically attempting to cash in on the "Platinum Blonde's" tabloid fresh brief marriage to producer Paul Bern. The role is tailored made for the better voiced, trained dancer Crawford but MGM and director Victor Fleming instead opt for evasive action shooting Jean's double in long shot from the side and hiding her behind the gaudy costumes of the chorus to make up for her hoofer inefficiencies. When she sings (or is dubbed) the Kern, Hammerstein tune Reckless it comes across as bad Mae West.

    Ned Riley (William Powell) manages the blossoming Broadway career of Mona Leslie. He wants to marry her but vacillates and loses her to spoiled playboy Bob Harrison (Franchot Tone) who on a whim buys out an entire show to watch her perform alone. They rush into marriage, Bob dumping intended "Jo" ( Roz Russell ) much to the discomfort of the upper crust society that Leslie feels out of place in. When Jo quickly rebounds and marries Bob predictably acts out and things snowball from there to tragedy.

    In its early scenes Reckless is buoyantly screwball, eventually becoming deadly serious before sealing its fate with an insipid redemption. Harlow underwhelms in every way. Somewhat detached to both lovers she provides little spark in her scenes with either though Powell and Tone acquit themselves well in their respective roles. Shot from the waist up smiling as she plows through her dance numbers Fleming goes as far as dissolving a trained professionals steps and gams to Harlow's upper torso in one shot to pull off the ruse. By throwing caution to the wind and playing against Harlow's weaknesses Selznick's actions regarding this picture are succinctly summed up in the title.
  • Reckless (1935)

    * 1/2 (out of 4)

    Really poor comedy/drama about a showgirl (Jean Harlow) who gets caught in a love triangle with a producer (William Powell) and a playboy (Franchot Tone). This is a pretty poor picture that fails as a comedy and then really fails as a drama in its second half. I'm not sure if Fleming couldn't handle the material or what but in all honesty he's not given too much to work with and even the cast sleepwalks through the film. This is certainly the worst I've seen Harlow and Powell as neither actor are up to their usual standards and Powell comes off quite boring. The supporting cast includes May Robson, Ted Healy and Mickey Rooney but none of them offer any laughs. The second half of the film turns into a drama, which tries to bring tears but this is the only segment that offers any laughs. The ending is downright insane and overly forced.
  • kyle_furr1 April 2004
    A pretty forgettable movie starring William Powell and Jean Harlow. The plot really doesn't really come together and seems to be just thrown together. There are a few musicals numbers but they are pretty bad and don't compare to The Great Ziegfeld. Harlow looks like she's mouthing the words and her dance scene will only shows her legs and nothing else. The plot has something to do with Powell and Harlow being in love with each other but Franchot Tone comes in and steals Harlow away before Powell makes his move. Rosalind Russell is in love with Tone but she winds up getting married to someone else. The movie just doesn't work and this was directed by the same guy who directed The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.
  • William Powell is delightful, Jean Harlow is warm and vulnerable, Rosalind Russell is charming, and even Franchot Tone, who plays a millionaire playboy who jilts Russell for Harlow without truly knowing his own mind, is witty. The dialog, particularly in the first half of the movie, is light and amusing, and there are a couple of nice musical numbers. It gets a little fast paced and soap operatic towards the end, but it's always entertaining. This is the film that got Powell and Harlow together personally for the last two years of her life, and their chemistry shows. The early scene with them lounging together and him proposing in his own way as she drowses off is fantastic, and Powell's scenes with the old granny are also priceless. It's also fun to see a young Mickey Rooney in a couple of scenes. Not perfect but watch this one for the cast and their performances.
  • aberlour3629 January 2008
    How do you make a turkey with a cast that includes Jean Harlow, William Powell, and Franchot Tone, and has music by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein? It happened, in 1935, with Reckless, an unfunny, almost incomprehensibly bad melodrama from MGM. The script is terrible; we don't even know why Harlow starts the film in jail. Powell plays a drunk who is in love with Harlow, spouting gibberish for long, embarrassing scenes. Harlow struts her stuff in a couple of awkward dance numbers. (Even Ruby Keeler was a better dancer.) The music is just awful. There is no comic relief. No wit anywhere. What was the director thinking? How did the best studio in the golden age of movies produce something this dreadful? Leonard Maltin gave it two stars out of four. He was far too generous.
  • Why do I give a movie with obvious skips a "10". I guess you could call me a nutty Harlow fan! That's so untrue. The cast is wonderful, William Powell is one of the grandest actors of them all. Franchot Tone is so romantic and classy. May Robson plays her matronly role with just the right tone. Even Nat Pendleton and Ted Healy bring the needed roughness to the scenery.

    ************** SPOILER ************************

    But what sets my view of the film, what redeems it for me, is that final scene in the theater. Harlow alone singing a song and then being heckled by the entire audience. She picks herself up and defends herself. To top all this all off, we have her encore. She sings to the audience while Powell, just inside the curtain, close enough to touch her, proposes to her between her lines. It is a tender, surprisingly effective moment that brings anyone with a shred of heart left into them to shed a tear. It is a well directed scene and for what it's worth, appropriately the best scene in the movie.

    ************* END OF SPOILER ******************

    Watch this movie, to know just how few movies there are to see Harlow in. Appreciate it for her every trademark gesture. Enjoy it for its pure entertainment value. Enjoy it for Jean.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The plot for "Reckless" is based on a real-life scenario that came to a climax just three years before this film's release. Other reviewers give more details of the affair and ultimate marriage of tobacco-heir Zachary Smith Reynolds and torch singer Libby Holman, and of his apparent suicide. These remarks will focus on the actors, their roles and performances. And then note the fictional deviations from the real characters and story.

    Jean Harlow plays Mona Leslie, the character who is based on Holman; and Franchot Tone plays Bob Harrison, the character based on the 21-year old heir of the Reynolds tobacco fortune. William Powell's Ned Riley is a fictional character who may have had parts of one or more other males in Holman's life. But there was no one person like him. The rest of the cast include some characters that represent real people - mostly in the Reynolds family; while the bulk are fictional or generalizations of several other people, mostly performers around Holman.

    Reviewers are split on Harlow's "suitability" for her role here. I agree with those who think this may be her best dramatic performance. It's hard to imagine the possible diverse talents of a performer if the performer is most often cast in one type of role and/or an audience is used to seeing her or him as such. People were used to Harlow as a comedienne and tough, wise-cracking bombshell, even in some of her films that weren't all comedies. Yet, she showed some dramatic flare as well in some films before this - most notably "Dinner at Eight" of 1933.

    Harlow puts some enthusiasm and bounce into her Mona Leslie that lights up the screen in her scenes. She seems to be acting and reacting more spontaneously than in many of her films in which she seemed to be ready with the next punchline. Harlow was an entertaining actress but far from a great one. Since she plays a singer and actress, it's obvious that MGM would bill this as a musical as well as a drama and light comedy. While the tunes and limited dances are good, they aren't anything special. And Harlow's singing was all dubbed.

    Franchot Tone gives a very good performance as the super-spoiled rich kid and playboy alcoholic. His Bob Harrison is the picture of the idle rich kid who thinks he can woo any woman with his money. Only here, it is apparent that he merely wants a sexual conquest because of his almost immediate regret at having married Leslie. The portrayal of Harrison pursuing Leslie is apparently very close to Reynold's behavior. He was said to have stalked Holman to the point of flying his personal plane to follow her around the globe. As the movie shows, the real family was appalled at Holman's lifestyle. The film doesn't include the events when Holman's stage and nightclub circle descended on the Reynolds estate and greatly disrupted and disturbed the family.

    The details about Harrison's death, and the aftermath, differ somewhat from those after the Reynold's 1932 suicide. The family did provide for Holman and for her son who was conceived by Reynolds, as shown in the film. But the family kept the affair as quiet as possible. It's not very likely that there was a major comeback show in which Holman confronted and won over a hostile audience. That's most likely Hollywood hype to build audience sympathy for Harlow's character. And that's important for the film's success, because the screenplay was very deliberate so as not to paint Holman as a gold-digger, which she wasn't.

    This also relates to one other aspect of Holman's character. The audiences of 1935 would have known about the Holman-Reynolds marriage and his apparent suicide. But most would not have read or known much about Holman's real life. She was bisexual and lived a very lurid and hedonistic lifestyle with various women and men. Some think her true lifestyle could not be portrayed because of the Motion Picture code enforcement. While that may be an official way to explain the whitewashing of the Holman character, I suspect that the MGM studio heads knew that a portrayal of a hedonistic heroine in this story would not have garnered audience approval. If anything, it's clear by the script for this film, that MGM's Leslie was a virtuous young singer and performer - far from the real Libby Holman.

    William Powell's part is the least of the major roles, but his Ned Riley seems to be the thread that holds the pieces of the story together. His character is likeable, but one wants to give him a poke so he will tell Mona that he loves her. May Robson and many others of the cast give good performances.
  • RECKLESS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1935), directed by Victor Fleming, is an odd little title for a movie classified as a musical for that there's no reckless driving involved nor reckless living to classify its story. It is, however, a title tune for a production number delivered by the studio's platinum blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow (1911-1937). For Harlow starring in a backstage story where she gets to "sing" and dance, one would expect a sort of "gold digger" theme involving three sassy Broadway show girls (possibly Harlow, Una Merkel and Patsy Kelly) out to nab some rich husbands. Instead, RECKLESS is very much Harlow's as the center of attention for a scripted story by Oliver Jeffries supposedly based loosely on the life and incidents of an actual entertainer named Lilly Holman.

    Set on Broadway in the Great White Way, Ned Riley (William Powell), is introduced as a sports promoter staying at the 43rd Street Hotel with his assistants, Blossom (Nat Pendleton) and Smiley (Ted Healy). His sleep is interrupted by the arrival of Granny (May Robson) coming to Ned to have him raise bail for her granddaughter, stage star Mona Leslie (Jean Harlow), who's being held on a reckless driving charge at the House of Detention for Women. Ned, being Mona's agent and discoverer, arranges her release in time for the upcoming charity benefit, only to discover the stage show arranged by millionaire playboy, Bob Morrison Jr. (Franchot Tone), who has bought every seat in the theater so he could be the only one to watch Mona perform. Later, Mona becomes romantically involved with Bob. They eventually elope, much to the chagrin of Bob's father (Henry Stephenson), having high hopes for his son marrying Josephine Mercer (Rosalind Russell), his childhood sweetheart. Though Josephine comes to like Mona, the rest of Bob's family and friends prove otherwise, making her feel like an outsider. After Josephine marries Ralph Watson (Leon Ames, billed as Leon Waycoff), Bob realizes the error in his ways, leading to tragedy involving Mona's custody battle over her baby and attempt of a theatrical comeback to a very unruly audience.

    In the listing of players credited (in order of appearance rather than the standard billing), there's Mickey Rooney as Eddie, a little boy briefly seen in two scenes with William Powell; Robert Light (Paul Mercer, Josephine's brother); James Ellison (Dale Eberly); Charles Middleton, Harold Huber and Charles C. Wilson. There's also famous wrestlers of the day, Man Mountain Dean, Hans Steinke and Ernie Hayes, appearing as themselves. Look quickly for Allan Jones (singer) and Margaret Dumont (woman in audience), best known for their major supporting performances opposite the Marx Brothers in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (MGM, 1935) each taking time away from that comedy classic in cameo appearances. Songs featured in this production include: "Reckless" (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein/ Ensemble: Jean Harlow, Allan Jones, Carl Randall and Nina Mae McKinney); "Everything's Been Done Before" (sung by Allan Jones); "Cyclone" (dance number); "Here's What My Heart is Saying" and "Reckless." Though Harlow sings, her vocalization is obviously dubbed with choreography lavish scale but forgettable. Interestingly, the "Reckless" number was selected in part of its musical segment profiled for the documentary on MGM musicals titled THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT (1974).

    The problem about RECKLESS, clocked at 97 minutes and produced by David O. Selznick, is that it could have been a really fine musical, even better. Rather than presenting a full comedy with standard singing and dancing, the plot generally looks more like a setback to those melodramatic overtones found in those early talkie MGM musicals (1929-30). RECKLESS does have its share of amusements and wisecracks commonly found in thirties movies, however, with William Powell doing his share with Harlow and the rest of the cast. Powell and Harlow had much better luck in the hilarious comedy, LIBELED LADY (1936), but it's only during the latter portion of RECKLESS does the story weaken to conclusion that doesn't ring true. Harlow and Franchot Tone have worked amusingly well together in both BOMBSHELL (1933) and THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934), but with RECKLESS having their serious moments together, especially during Tone's drunken tantrums, they are either satisfactory or a bit unpleasant. Rosalind Russell is a refreshing presence here while the rest of the cast tries hard to rise above this so-so script.

    Considering mixed reactions then and now, RECKLESS wouldn't be classified as Hollywood's greatest musicals. It's somewhat all-star cast and MGM gloss does save it from being lost and forgotten to classic film historians, especially over the years with its presentations in revival movie houses in New York City as Museum of Modern Art (1980 to a full house) or the Regency Theater in the seventies and eighties, followed by availability on video cassette (1995), DVD and broadcasts on cable television's Turner Classic Movies since 1994. (**)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This being Black History Month, I checked this movie out from the library because IMDb mentioned this among the films that had Nina Mae McKinney in it, specifically the "Reckless" number. Well, she's in it all right, at the end of the song when, after the Jean Harlow character gets murdered near the number's end, Ms. McKinney sings the final verses. Trouble is, her singing is in a group shot at that end that's so far away you can't really see her on the television screen. I'm thinking this has to do with the fact that, unless they played domestics, black performers weren't allowed to be on the same screen as their white counterparts, not unlike the line in Show Boat that I saw and heard this morning about the same thing concerning the play in there when Julie almost got arrested. While I was looking for Nina during the rest of the picture, I got mostly bored with the plot of the triangle between Harlow, William Powell, and Franchot Tone. It was interesting when I recognized many of the supporting players: Nat Pendleton, Ted Healy after leaving The Three Stooges to Columbia, May Robson, Rosalind Russell, a 14 year-old Mickey Rooney in a couple of scenes, frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont as one of the women at the end yelling at the Harlow character to get off the stage, and, as the jockey Gold Dust, former "Our Gang"-er Allen "Farina" Hoskins. Other than that, the dialogue went for such long stretches, especially when the Powell character was drunk, that I was just waiting for the movie to end. I did sort of liked the final 5 minutes but that's it. So for all that, I don't really recommend Reckless.