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Film / Reckless

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Reckless is a 1935 film directed by Victor Fleming.

Mona Leslie (Jean Harlow) is a big musical stage star. Old family friend Ned Riley (William Powell), a sports promoter and gambler, carries a torch for Mona, but he Cannot Spit It Out.

So Ned is beaten to the punch by Bob Harrison Jr. (Franchot Tone), a big fan of Mona's. Bob is a huge fan of Mona's and also filthy rich from a filthy rich Old Money family, which is why he can afford to rent out a theater and put on a performance starring Mona, in a show with an audience of one, himself. Bob's puppy-dog adoration and tons of money lead to him and Mona getting married, much to Ned's disappointment.

Unfortunately, very soon after getting married Bob starts to have buyer's remorse. His starchy upper-crust family strongly disapproves of him marrying a showgirl. Also, Bob's infatuation with Mona and their whirlwind romance caused Bob to forget Jo Russell, the lovely young society lady he was already engaged to. Mona for her part is deeply hurt by the Harrisons' dislike for her and by Bob's attitude. Soon sorrow and regret lead to tragedy.


Two actors on the cusp of stardom appear in small roles. Rosalind Russell pops up in the last third of the film as Jo Russell. A young Mickey Rooney has an even smaller part (two scenes) as a former Street Urchin who with Ned's help has gotten a small sidewalk concession stand.


  • Amusement Park: Bob and Mona go out on the standard amusement park date. They kiss in the haunted house.
  • As You Know: Mona's grandma makes sure to refer to Mona as "my granddaughter" in the opening scene when badgering Ned to get her out of jail.
  • Dramatic Irony: Mona is lounging in a hammock when Ned, sitting in a chair next to her, finally works up the nerve to ask her to marry him. She's asleep. Right after this Ned leans his chair too far back and falls over, knocking Mona out of her hammock. As she picks herself up Ned says "I sort of almost took a tumble myself."
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  • Driven to Suicide: Bob, in the depths of despair about his unhappy marriage and losing Jo, shoots himself.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Ned goes on a binge after Mona gets married.
    • Bob winds up getting very drunk at Jo's wedding, after seeing Jo and experiencing the disapproval of his family has led him to regret marrying Mona.
  • Fish out of Water: Earthy, working-class Mona does not fit in at all well with Bob's snooty family and friends.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's a joke about sexually-transmitted diseases despite coming this movie coming out in 1935, just the year after the MPDA started enforcing the Hays Code.
    Ned: Did you catch anything?
    Mona: We didn't fish!
    Ned: Did you catch anything?
  • The Grand Hunt: Not shown, because as all the fancy rich folks are getting on their horses to go hunting, Bob's dickhead brother reveals that he didn't put Bob's name on the list.
  • Hall of Mirrors: A gag scene has Bob and Mona get lost in one of these at the Amusement Park.
  • Ironic Nickname: Ned's sidekick, a big amiable lummox of a boxer (played by Nat Pendleton, MGM's specialist in amiable lummoxes), is named "Blossom".
  • Meet Cute: Meet Cutes don't come much Meet Cuter than a rich playboy staging a fake benefit concert, just so he can meet the singer who stars in the show.
  • Moral Guardians: A bunch of cranky old ladies mount a campaign opposing Mona's effort to make a comeback in show business.
  • Roman à Clef: Based on the Real Life story of torch singer Libby Holman's marriage to tobacco heir Zachary Reynolds, who killed himself in 1932. Libby Holman was said to be happy when this film bombed at the box office for the only flop of Jean Harlow's career.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Mona reveals to Ned that she is pregnant, right before Bob kills himself. Later, Bob's asshole father tries to take the baby away, but relents in exchange for Mona renouncing her inheritance from Bob.
  • Tempting Fate: Bob kisses Mona in the haunted house, saying "I like the privacy in here." Instantly the lights come on in the haunted house, revealing people in the balcony above who laugh at them.
  • Time Passes Montage: A Spinning Paper variation on this, as a series of newspaper headlines pop up with headlines about Bob's suicide and the failed police effort to hang a murder charge on Mona and Ned.
  • Title Theme Tune: Mona sings a song called "Reckless" about being reckless in love.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: "HARRISON JR. ELOPES WITH BLONDE DANCER" takes up the whole top half of the front page of a newspaper.