Reckless


1h 36m 1935
Reckless

Brief Synopsis

A theatrical star gets in over her head when she marries a drunken millionaire.

Film Details

Also Known As
Born Reckless, Hard to Handle
Genre
Drama
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 19, 1935
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

When Broadway showgirl Mona Leslie is hauled off to jail for reckless driving, Granny, her grandmother, goes to sports promoter Ned Riley for help. Granny trusts Ned and knows that he is in love with her granddaughter. Ned springs Mona from the House of Detention for Women just in time for her benefit performance for an organization known only as the S.A.M.L. Mona takes the stage only to discover there is only one man in the audience, her admirer, Bob Harrison, who admits that he is the president and sole member of the S.A.M.L., which stands for the Society for the Admiration of Mona Leslie. Bob, an heir to an immense oil fortune, is soon joined by Ned, with whom he is engaged in a friendly romantic rivalry, and the two men watch with pleasure as Mona performs her song and dance routine. Following the performance, Ned allows Bob to take Mona on a date, but only because he knows that she will be taken back to the House of Detention when she steps outside. Mona is soon released, and while their romance makes headlines, the two spend an afternoon at an amusement park, where Bob kisses Mona. Later, Granny reminds Ned that it was he who helped Mona start her professional career and urges him to pursue his interests in her, believing that she will leave Bob if he asks her. Soon after, however, Ned reads in the newspapers that Mona has eloped with Bob and becomes depressed. While Bob and Mona are on their way to meet his parents, Mona reads in the newspaper that Bob jilted his childhood sweetheart, Jo Mercer, to marry her. Upon their arrival, Bob's father, Colonel H. Harrison, makes an obvious show of his displeasure at his son's decision to marry a "Broadway bride." To everyone's surprise, Jo is remarkably demure about Bob's marriage, so much so that she forgets Bob and marries Ralph Watson. At Jo's wedding, Bob, who is still in love with Jo, becomes melancholy and, after drinking, picks a fight with Ned. Ned and Mona leave, but Bob follows them to Ned's room, where he bursts in, quarrels with them and then commits suicide. Both Mona and Ned are accused of murdering Bob, but a trial proves their innocence. After Mona gives birth to Bob's son, who will be the future heir to the Harrison fortunes, the newspapers report on the bitter custody battle being waged by Mona and Harrison. With her reputation sullied, Mona makes an attempt to escape further controversy by leaving with her son and promising Harrison that she will not lay any claim to his money. Unfortunately, Mona's troubles continue when she attempts to make a stage comeback and is heckled by an audience that believes the lies that have been printed about her. Forced to stop in the middle of a song, Mona makes a desperate appeal to the audience and asks them to allow her to finish her song, which she believes is her last. Moved by her speech and her song, the crowd applauds Mona, and Ned proposes marriage.

Photo Collections

Reckless - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Reckless (1935), starring Jean Harlow and William Powell and directed by Victor Fleming.

Film Details

Also Known As
Born Reckless, Hard to Handle
Genre
Drama
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 19, 1935
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

Reckless


When Broadway performer Mona Leslie is jailed for reckless driving, her grandmother enlists the help of Ned Riley, a sports promoter who carries a torch for Mona. Securing her release from jail, Ned arranges for her to perform in a benefit concert for the mysterious organization S.A.M.L. Upon arrival, Mona discovers it is actually the Society for the Admiration of Mona Leslie, whose single member is oil heir Bob Harrison. To Ned's dismay, a romance develops between Bob and Mona and the two elope, leaving Bob's fiancee Josephine Mercer high and dry. The ensuing conflicts result in Bob's suicide, and Mona and Ned find themselves defending murder charges.

Using the pseudonym Oliver Jeffries, producer David O. Selznick himself wrote the original story, entitled "A Woman Called Cheap." Working titles for the project were Hard to Handle and Born Reckless before it reached the screen as Reckless (1935). The story was based in part on the tragic circumstances surrounding Libby Holman, a singer who married tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds II. Reynolds had committed suicide, but rumors spread that Holman was in some way responsible. This was not the first film to use Holman's life as source material: earlier examples include Brief Moment (1932) and Sing Sinner Sing (1933).

Originally, Joan Crawford was selected to play the lead opposite William Powell. When Louis B. Mayer ordered Harlow to play the part instead, she became angry, convinced that Mayer was trying to capitalize on the notoriety surrounding Libby Holman, a close friend. Moreover, Harlow herself had just lived through an uncannily similar chain of events; her second husband Paul Bern committed suicide, leaving a note which suggested impotence as the reason. In the fall of 1934, a grand jury in Los Angeles reopened the investigation into the case, creating more unwanted publicity for Harlow, although nothing was uncovered that hurt her standing. William Powell had befriended Harlow during this time and urged her not to refuse the part, arguing that it would jeopardize her career and compound the negative publicity already surrounding her. In response Harlow worked especially hard at this role, determined to prove her acting skills.

According to Daily Variety, the picture was shot as a straight melodrama; after it was finished MGM decided to add musical numbers, sending the cast and crew back before the cameras. David O. Selznick reportedly hated musicals and produced only two: the Joan Crawford vehicle Dancing Lady (1933) and Reckless, his last. There are conflicting accounts regarding Jean Harlow's degree of participation in the musical numbers. Contemporary sources such as the New York Times claimed that Harlow "neither danced nor sang in the film" and that Virginia Merrill was used to dub her voice, while doubles were used to shoot some of the dance moves. Other sources today claim that Harlow in fact did much, though not all, of the musical routines herself. Regardless, it became Harlow's top-grossing film to date.

Director: Victor Fleming
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: P. J. Wolfson, based on a story by Oliver Jeffries
Cinematography: George Folsey
Editing: Margaret Booth
Music: "Reckless" (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II); "Ev'rything's Been Done Before" (music by Jack King, lyrics by Edwin Knopf and Harold Adamson; "Hear What my Heart is Saying" (music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Harod Adamson).
Principal Cast: Jean Harlow (Mona Leslie), William Powell (Ned Riley), Franchot Tone (Bob Harrison), May Robson (Granny), Rosalind Russell (Josephine Mercer), Mickey Rooney (Eddie), Ted Healy (Smiley).
BW-98m.

by James Steffen

Reckless

Reckless

When Broadway performer Mona Leslie is jailed for reckless driving, her grandmother enlists the help of Ned Riley, a sports promoter who carries a torch for Mona. Securing her release from jail, Ned arranges for her to perform in a benefit concert for the mysterious organization S.A.M.L. Upon arrival, Mona discovers it is actually the Society for the Admiration of Mona Leslie, whose single member is oil heir Bob Harrison. To Ned's dismay, a romance develops between Bob and Mona and the two elope, leaving Bob's fiancee Josephine Mercer high and dry. The ensuing conflicts result in Bob's suicide, and Mona and Ned find themselves defending murder charges. Using the pseudonym Oliver Jeffries, producer David O. Selznick himself wrote the original story, entitled "A Woman Called Cheap." Working titles for the project were Hard to Handle and Born Reckless before it reached the screen as Reckless (1935). The story was based in part on the tragic circumstances surrounding Libby Holman, a singer who married tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds II. Reynolds had committed suicide, but rumors spread that Holman was in some way responsible. This was not the first film to use Holman's life as source material: earlier examples include Brief Moment (1932) and Sing Sinner Sing (1933). Originally, Joan Crawford was selected to play the lead opposite William Powell. When Louis B. Mayer ordered Harlow to play the part instead, she became angry, convinced that Mayer was trying to capitalize on the notoriety surrounding Libby Holman, a close friend. Moreover, Harlow herself had just lived through an uncannily similar chain of events; her second husband Paul Bern committed suicide, leaving a note which suggested impotence as the reason. In the fall of 1934, a grand jury in Los Angeles reopened the investigation into the case, creating more unwanted publicity for Harlow, although nothing was uncovered that hurt her standing. William Powell had befriended Harlow during this time and urged her not to refuse the part, arguing that it would jeopardize her career and compound the negative publicity already surrounding her. In response Harlow worked especially hard at this role, determined to prove her acting skills. According to Daily Variety, the picture was shot as a straight melodrama; after it was finished MGM decided to add musical numbers, sending the cast and crew back before the cameras. David O. Selznick reportedly hated musicals and produced only two: the Joan Crawford vehicle Dancing Lady (1933) and Reckless, his last. There are conflicting accounts regarding Jean Harlow's degree of participation in the musical numbers. Contemporary sources such as the New York Times claimed that Harlow "neither danced nor sang in the film" and that Virginia Merrill was used to dub her voice, while doubles were used to shoot some of the dance moves. Other sources today claim that Harlow in fact did much, though not all, of the musical routines herself. Regardless, it became Harlow's top-grossing film to date. Director: Victor Fleming Producer: David O. Selznick Screenplay: P. J. Wolfson, based on a story by Oliver Jeffries Cinematography: George Folsey Editing: Margaret Booth Music: "Reckless" (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II); "Ev'rything's Been Done Before" (music by Jack King, lyrics by Edwin Knopf and Harold Adamson; "Hear What my Heart is Saying" (music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Harod Adamson). Principal Cast: Jean Harlow (Mona Leslie), William Powell (Ned Riley), Franchot Tone (Bob Harrison), May Robson (Granny), Rosalind Russell (Josephine Mercer), Mickey Rooney (Eddie), Ted Healy (Smiley). BW-98m. by James Steffen

Quotes

Trivia

The film was inspired by the life of torch singer Libby Holman, whose husband's suicide caused a scandal, and she was accused of murder.

It was also based in part on the suicide of Jean Harlow's second husband, Paul Bern. Jean Harlow believed she was cast in the picture in a deliberate attempt to capitalize on that event, and she refused the role at first. In 'Powell, William' 's autobiography, he says he convinced her to accept the role rather than be suspended.

Hans Steinke walked off the set when director Victor Fleming instructed Man Mountain Dean to sit on him. He was replaced by wrestler Ernie Haynes.

After the movie was completed and shot as a straight drama, MGM decided to make it into a musical, so production was resumed.

Notes

Working titles for this film were Hard to Handle and Born Reckless. David O. Selznick wrote the original story on which this film was based under the pseudonym Oliver Jeffries. Contemporary sources indicate that the film was inspired by the life of torch singer Libby Holman and the highly publicized mystery surrounding the death of her husband, tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds II. Although Reynolds' death was labeled a suicide, a scandal resulted when Holman was accused of his murder. Other films that used the Holman incident as the basis, or inspiration, for their plots are the 1932 Columbia film Brief Moment, the 1933 Majestic film Sing Sinner Sing (see below) and the 1957 Universal production Written on the Wind (see below). Some contemporary sources allege that the story was also based in part on the suicide of Jean Harlow's second husband, producer Paul Bern, which occurred around the time of Reynolds' death. According to a biography of William Powell, Harlow, whom Louis B. Mayer chose to replace Joan Crawford as the female lead one week before production began, stongly objected to being cast in this film. Harlow believed that the decision to cast her was a deliberate attempt to capitalize on the sensational publicity surrounding her husband's death. Powell claimed that he dissuaded Harlow from refusing her assignment by arguing that if she were to do so, it would result in her suspension and only open her up to further negative publicity.
       Although a Hollywood Reporter pre-production news item announced that German music composers Bronislau Kaper and Walter Jurmann were set to collaborate with Gus Kahn on songs for this film, their participation in the film has not been confirmed. Similarly, an early Hollywood Reporter production chart credits Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn as songwriters, but Donaldson's participation in the released film also has not been confirmed. Although Man-Mountain Dean played himself in the film, a Hollywood Reporter pre-production news item indicated that comedian Jack Lipson was set to impersonate the wrestler. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Henry Wadsworth, Lee Kohlmar, Mary Jo Matthews, Barbara Worth and Lloyd Whitlock in the cast, and Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items list Ernie Haynes (Wrestler), Stuart Casey (Gaylord), Rosina Lawrence, Albert Taylor, John Davidson, Davison Clark, Jack Kennedy, Gordon Elliott, Theresa Maxwell Conover and Richard Carle in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items also note the following: Norman Krasna was borrowed from Paramount and was given a gag writing assignment on the film; "Ramon and Dolores" were signed for a specialty dance; and wrestler Hans Steinke, who walked off the set when director Fleming instructed Man-Mountain Dean to sit on him, was replaced by wrestler Ernie Haynes. A January 1935 Daily Variety news item notes that after the picture was completed, M-G-M decided to change Reckless from a straight drama to a musical, which resulted in the resumption of production. A contemporary New York Times news item claims that Jean Harlow "neither danced nor sang in the film" and that "professionals were used as doubles," and information in the M-G-M Music Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library indicates that Virginia Verrill dubbed several songs for Harlow. However, a modern source claims that Harlow danced and sang all her numbers, and that only the high notes in her songs were dubbed because she had difficulty reaching them. According to the Variety review, two songs that were billed in the credits of the preview version ("Hi Diddle Dee Dum," by Con Conrad and Herbert Magidson, and "I'm Going Down to Dance at Clancy's") were not included in the released film. Harlow and William Powell announced their engagement around the time of this picture's production. According to modern sources, writers Donald Ogden Stewart, Ted Shane and Norman Krasna were hired to rewrite P. J. Wolfson's script. Reckless marked Selznick's second and last musical production, which, according his biography, was a genre that he despised.