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Thursday, August 16, 2012

RECKLESS (1935)

Of the eleven pics David O Selznick produced under father-in-law L. B. Mayer during his unhappy two-year stint @ M-G-M, two flopped, eight came out well, and this one just came out. It sounds like a sure thing, and it made some bucks, but something went seriously wrong. Designed as a Joan Crawford vehicle (B’way musical star marries a self-destructive charmer, but soon returns to the stage & the arms of her old mentor), the package was refitted for Jean Harlow with Victor Fleming helming his third Harlow pic, and Franchot Tone & William Powell as the friendly rivals. But the ramshackle story is a mess with Act One drowning in whimsy; Act Two building up an oddly compelling hard romantic veneer (with all three stars lowering their guard*); then an abbreviated Act Three wrapping things up without a shred of conviction or believability, as if everyone had had enough of the thing. A couple of huge, lumbering musical numbers are thrown in, so we get a snatch of Harlow singing & dancing before her doubles take over. (Watch close during an impromptu number at Roz Russell’s wedding for a fancy optical ‘swap out.’) But this one’s a miss . . . and a waste.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Fleming &; Harlow show their stuff (and how!) in RED DUST/’32 and BOMBSHELL/’33.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Where does this fascinating middle section come from? It’s as if F. Scott Fitzgerald, who worked @ M-G-M a few years before and after this film, had shown up with story notes. It makes the whole film worth watching.

CONTEST: What’s the link between Rosalind Russell in this pic and in her most iconic role? Name the link and the other film title to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of a NetFlix DVD.

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