The Reckless Moment
Directed by Max Ophüls
Written by Mel Dinelli, Sidney Garson, et al from the Ladies Home Journal story “The Blank Wall”
Columbia Pictures Corporation
First viewing/Korean import DVD
#226 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The List introduced me to this film and for that I am grateful.
Lucia Harper’s (Joan Bennett) husband is in Berlin at Christmas and she is left to head the household of her father, seventeen-year old daughter Bea and younger sons. They are a respectable, tight-knit middle class family. Clearly Lucia is not used to making important decisions on her own nor does she want to bother her husband. Her daughter has taken up with a much older man, Ted Darby and Joan feels she must break it off. She confronts the man and he offers to stop seeing Bea in exchange for a pay-off. Instead, Lucia goes home and tells Bea what Ted said. Bea meets him, they argue, and Bea pushes him, causing him to hit his head on an anchor and, unbeknownst to her, killing him.
In the morning, Lucia finds the corpse. In her panic, she takes the body out to sea in a motor boat (they live in Balboa) and sinks it with the anchor. The body is soon discovered. Then bad guy Nagel, an associate of the deceased, gets his hands on Bea’s love letters to Ted and sends his buddy Martin Donnelly (James Mason) to threaten Lucia that they will go to the police with the letters unless she pays them $5,000 more or less immediately.
But Lucia doesn’t have the money and can’t think of a way to get it without involving her husband, which she still is unwilling to do. Fortunately for her, Martin develops an affection for her. Now they are both in great danger from the ruthless Nagel.
So far I have found Ophül’s American films a mixed bag but I really liked this one. The acting is first rate and the story is interesting and beautifully filmed. This part was totally against type for the usually seductive Bennett and she was excellent in it. Mason is Mason. I don’t think I have seen him with a bit of an Irish brogue in his accent before.
I have to admit I was frustrated with the ending, however. I felt like a certain undeserving party got let off the hook too easily. Maybe I should have worked for the Hayes office! Actually, I don’t know how they got away with this in 1949.
Fan trailer – montage of clips and stills (spoilers)