Reckless Moment, The (1949)

Reckless Moment, The (1949)

“These are letters which your daughter wrote to the late Ted Darby.”

When a mother (Joan Bennett) mistakenly believes that her teenage daughter (Geraldine Brooks) has killed her lover (Shepperd Strudwick), she hides the body in a “reckless moment” of panic. Soon, however, Bennett is approached by a blackmailer (James Mason) who demands $5,000 in exchange for letters connecting her daughter to the dead man .

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Blackmail
  • Hiding Dead Bodies
  • James Mason Films
  • Joan Bennett Films
  • Max Ophuls Films
  • Suffering Mothers

The Reckless Moment was Max Ophuls’ fourth and final American film, and shows clear evidence of his distinctive style (note the classic Ophuls “sweeping shot” as Bennett ascends the staircase in her home). It’s a gritty, fast-moving thriller with effectively stark noir cinematography and good use of outdoor locales. Bennett (who, with her sunglasses on, looks for all the world like Myrna Loy):

… makes a strong lead, and it’s refreshing to see her playing a self-sufficient mother. The film’s primary problem lies in its script, which neglects to adequately explain the motivations behind Mason’s immediate infatuation with Bennett — he’s an intriguing character, and we want to know more about him.

Note: The Reckless Moment gained renewed attention in 2001 when it was updated with Tilda Swinton in Bennett’s role, and renamed The Deep End.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joan Bennett as the determined mother
  • Effectively atmospheric cinematography

  • Good use of outdoor locales

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


2 thoughts on “Reckless Moment, The (1949)

  1. A must. And here’s why:

    When it comes to the term ‘sleeper’, I tend to give it two-fold meaning. Although, the term is usu. reserved for films that slowly make money unexpectedly, I feel it also applies to films that aren’t expected to be much in themselves but turn out to be surprisingly interesting; like this one.

    In fact, when this started, I was doubtful that it would hold much interest: Bennett (who ultimately does a fine job) is seen hunting down an older man to warn him to stay away from her daughter (Brooks; so good two years before in ‘Possessed’, with Joan Crawford). However, when Bennett returns home, and we discover the daughter is the arrogant type you just want to slap (an echo of ‘Mildred Pierce’ here), the melodrama of it all seems to put the film in ho-hum jeopardy.

    Then things heat up (esp. with the entrance of our beloved James Mason!), and we’re off with a very tense and ripping yarn! (I esp. like how the action takes place in a Thornton Wilder-type town, where everyone knows everyone and their business – so there’s always an unintentional buttinsky about.) Like all such stories, some suspension of disbelief is involved. But that hardly matters; we’re on the edge of our beanbags as the darn thing develops.

    It’s true; Mason’s interest in Bennett comes quickly (we’re expected to catch on to the fact that her maternal instinct sparks a for-whatever-reason need and we’re left to fill in our own blanks, which is fine), and she is hardly love interest material here since she’s on her last nerve throughout. But, again, such a detail is not our main concern; we just want to be swept every-which-way (which we are) and feel the overall mechanics reach a satisfying conclusion (which they do).

  2. A good noir drama and it’s short enough to not outstay its welcome. Great performances and direction.

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