The Reckless Moment

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The Reckless Moment
The Reckless Moment.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Max Ophüls
Produced by Walter Wanger
Screenplay by
Based on Ladies Home Journal story "The Blank Wall" 
by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Music by Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Gene Havlick
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • October 17, 1949 (1949-10-17) (Premiere)
  • December 29, 1949 (1949-12-29) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $882,653[1]
Box office $717,188[1]

The Reckless Moment is a 1949 American film noir melodrama directed by Max Ophüls, produced by Walter Wanger, and released by Columbia Pictures with Burnett Guffey as cinematographer. Starring Joan Bennett and James Mason, the film is based on The Blank Wall (1947), a novel written by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. The film The Deep End (2001) is based on the same story.


California housewife Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) attempts to cover up what she believes to be her daughter (Geraldine Brooks)'s accidental killing of an undesirable ex-lover Darby (Shepperd Strudwick). Martin Donnelly (James Mason), a clean-shaven smooth-talker involved in organized crime, tries to blackmail Lucia by threatening to take Bea and Darby's correspondence to the police. Complications arise when he realizes his true feelings for Lucia and learns the truth. Donnelly's associate Nagel (Roy Roberts), initially a mysterious figure, fights with Donnelly, who later is reported to have died in a car crash. Normalcy appears to return for Lucia, but not for long.



This was Mason's third U.S. film, after having appeared in director Ophüls in Caught (released February 1949) then in Vincente Minnelli's Madame Bovary (released August 1949).



The film made a loss of $565,775.[1]

Critical response[edit]

When the film was first released in 1949, the film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, praised the actors but wrote, "But it isn't all right with this picture. Although it is rather well staged, with credible location settings in Balboa and Los Angeles, it is a feeble and listless drama with a shamelessly callous attitude. The heroine gets away with folly, but we don't think this picture will."[2]

In the recent years, however, the film has received very positive appraisal and is now generally considered as one of the best films by Max Ophüls.[3] It has been highly regarded by film critics, historians and audience, and entered in the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.


  1. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p445
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "'Reckless Moment' New Feature at the Palace -- British and Two French Films Also Arrive", December 30, 1949. Accessed: July 10, 2013.
  3. ^

External links[edit]