Musical Monday: “Reckless” (1935)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

reckless-movie-poster-1935-1020143418This week’s musical:
Reckless” (1935) –Musical #190

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Victor Flemming

Starring:
Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone, William Powell, May Robeson, Rosalind Russell, Nat Pendleton, Mickey Rooney, Ted Healy, Henry Stephenson, Leon Ames, Allan Jones is a featured singer

Plot:
Musical actress Mona Leslie (Harlow) goes on stage thinking she’s performing for a charity event to find the whole house bought out by heir Bob Harrison (Tone).  Mona falls in love with Bob as he is courting her, and her gambling agent Ned Riley (Powell) sits silently in the background, though he is also in love with Mona. After a drunken evening, Bob and Mona marry and they face the disapproval of Bob’s wealthy society family.

Trivia:

Hungover Franchot Tone isn't too sure about his marriage to Jean Harlow in "Reckless."

Hungover Franchot Tone isn’t too sure about his marriage to Jean Harlow in “Reckless.”

-The film was originally supposed to star Joan Crawford under the title “A Woman Called Cheap.” However, producer David O. Selznick replaced Crawford with Harlow before production to capitalize off of Harlow and Powell’s real-life romance, according to the Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira book “Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937.” 
-Dancer Betty Halsey doubled for Jean Harlow in the long shots.
-The film’s plot was very similar to a scandal that occurred two years earlier involving singer Libby Holman and her husband tobacco heir Zachary Reynolds. Similarly to the film, Reynolds drunkenly committed suicide. Holman threatened to sue for libel, but never did. Harlow was also uncomfortable, because the scandal in the movie was similar to the death of her husband Paul Bern. However, Powell convinced her to make the film, according to “Harlow in Hollywood.”
-Version of “Sing, Sinner, Sing” (1933) starring Leila Hyams and “Brief Moment” (1933) starring Carole Lombard.
-Jean Harlow’s singing was dubbed by Virginia Verrill. “She (Jean) realized that I couldn’t have credit for my singing, so she went out of her way to give me a hand whenever she could.”
-“Reckless” was the first Jean Harlow film to lose money.

Highlights:
-A very young Leon Ames marrying Rosalind Russell.

leon ames

Young Leon Ames with Rosalind Russell in “Reckless.”
(Screencapped by Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Notable Songs:
This isn’t your typical musical. There are really only three musical numbers. Including:
-“Reckless” performed by Jean Harlow and dubbed by Virginia Verrill, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein
-“Trocadero” sung by Allan Jones and danced by Jean Harlow.
-“Hear What My Heart is Saying” performed by Jean Harlow and dubbed by Virginia Verrill

Review:
I guess calling this a musical is a stretch. It’s really a melodrama with three or four songs and dances built into the plot, and none of the songs move the plot along.
However, since it is categorized as a musical, the “That’s Entertainment” documentary features it and it’s Jean Harlow birthday, I decided to highlight the film today.
Reckless” may be the first Jean Harlow film to lose money, but I don’t think it’s un-watchable. It’s interesting, it kept my attention, the plot keeps moving, but I will say it isn’t Jean Harlow’s best film.
The film is interesting however, since it is shot around the time William Powell and Jean Harlow started their romance.
You also see Rosalind Russell early in her career, though she is not the comedic Russell we are used to seeing. Early in her career, Russell is cast as the other woman or the forgiving, jilted friend- such as in “Evelyn Prentiss,” “China Seas” and “Man-Proof.” Certainly not the comedic lady we later came to know.
Also keep your eyes peeled for a young, line-less and un-credited Leon Ames as he marries Russell.
If you are looking for a musical with show stopping numbers, this isn’t it. But if you enjoy a good MGM melodrama with a few songs sprinkled in starring the original platinum blond, check it out.

Jean Harlow's character Mona Leslie is a musical star in "Reckless."

Jean Harlow’s character Mona Leslie is a musical star in “Reckless.”

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“She didn’t want to be famous, she wanted to be happy”: Remembering Jean Harlow

**Above quote said by Clark Gable.

Today, Comet is remembering Jean Harlow on her 102 birthday, one of the most beautiful women to grace Hollywood.

“In the first sitting, I fell in love with Jean Harlow,” said photographer Charles Sinclair Bull. “She had the most beautiful and seductive body I ever photographed.”

Harlow paved the way for platinum blondes of the 1950s such as Mamie Van Doren and Marilyn Monroe. She died at the age of 26 in June 1937 of uremic poisoning brought on by acute nephritis.

“She was a square shooter if there ever was one,” Spencer Tracy said.

Harlow off the movie screen

Harlow with a young fan outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1933.

Harlow with a young fan outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1933.

Watching the National Air Races of Los Angeles Municipal Airport in 1933. She raised the flag tobegin the races.

Watching the National Air Races of Los Angeles Municipal Airport in 1933. She raised the flag tobegin the races.

Celebrating the end of Prohibition, Harlow christens a truck load of beer in 1933. Pictured with Walter Huston.

Celebrating the end of Prohibition, Harlow christens a truck load of beer in 1933. Pictured with Walter Huston.

Harlow with fiance William Powell at William Randolph Hearst's birthday party in 1936

Harlow with fiance William Powell at William Randolph Hearst’s birthday party in 1936

Harlow lets out toads for a Horned Toad Derby in 1931.

Harlow lets out toads for a Horned Toad Derby in 1931.

Harlow with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937, celebrating the 55 birthday of President Roosevelt. She was also helping raise funds for infantile paralysis.

Harlow with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937, celebrating the 55 birthday of President Roosevelt. She was also helping raise funds for infantile paralysis.

 

 Harlow Fashion

Harlow was well known for slinky, white satin gowns. In April 2012, Time listed her as one of the top 100 fashion icons of all time.

Harlow

Harlow in her signature style of a slinky gown

Harlow in a suit designed by Adrian, who shares a birthday with her

Harlow in a suit designed by Adrian, who shares a birthday with her

Harlow in fur

Harlow in fur

Harlow in shorts

Harlow in shorts

Harlow in 1933. A gold and sequined gown with an Oriental influence

Harlow in 1933. A gold and sequined gown with an Oriental influence

Harlow in 1933 in riding clohes

Harlow in 1933 in riding clothes

Harlow on set of film "Personal Property" in 1937

Harlow on set of film “Personal Property” in 1937

Harlow and furry friends 

It’s said Harlow was a lover of animals. On the day Rin Tin Tin died in 1932, jut a month shy of 14, Rinty was no longer strong enough to go to his master’s side. Harlow, who lived across the street, came over and cradled his head in her lap as he died. Years before Lee Duncan had given her one of Rinty’s first puppies.

Harlow and her dachshund Nosey

Harlow and her dachshund Nosey

Jean Harlow hugging her Pomeranian, Oscar

Jean Harlow hugging her Pomeranian, Oscar

Harlow in 1936 with her dog

Harlow in 1936 with her dog

Jean Harlow in 1932 with a Borzoi

Jean Harlow in 1932 with a Borzoi

Harlow in her mother

When Harlow died, her mother estate was left to her mother which worth roughly $1 million.

Jean Harlow with her mother

Jean Harlow with her mother

Harlow and Jean Bello in 1935

Harlow and Jean Bello in 1935

Harlow and her mother in 1932

Harlow and her mother in 1932

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Did that performance deserve an Oscar?: Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936)

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

 Occasionally you look at Academy Award winners, raise an eyebrow and say, “Really?”

Luise Rainer’s 1936 Best Actress win for “The Great Ziegfeld” is one of those for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I adore Rainer, nicknamed “The Viennese Teardrop.”

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in "The Great Ziegfeld"

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in “The Great Ziegfeld”

It’s amazing that she was the first actress to win two Best Actress Awards back to back and is still with us at age 103. She did a good job with her role in “The Great Ziegfeld” but it did not leave me wowed.

The Great Ziegfeld” is a fictionalized biography of Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld, played by William Powell.

Rainer plays Anna Held, who the film says is Ziegfeld’s first wife. In reality, Held and Ziegfeld lived together for a year while she was getting divorced. After the divorce was finalized, the couple announced that they considered themselves married, though they never officially were, according to Musicals 101. Ziegfeld later went on to marry Billie Burke, who many people know as Glenda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Burke is played by Myrna Loy in the film.

Out of the nearly three hour movie, Rainer is in roughly 40 minutes.

In the film, Held is a bit of a diva. For example, she throws a temper tantrum (and orchids) when Ziegfeld tells the press that Held bathes in milk for publicity. Another time she gets upset because Ziegfeld is producing two shows, and will only let her be in one.

“I’m so disappointed in you I could scream,” she cries. “I thought you loved me more than anything else in the world. I thought I was your one ideal, your only ambition.”

In the end, Ziegfeld treats Held rather badly, going after a character played by Virginia Bruce in the film. I think Bruce’s character is supposed to be Lilliane Lorraine, who Ziegfeld left Held for in real life. In the movie, Anna Held leaves Ziegfeld after seeing him embracing another woman.

So let’s see who was Rainer up against in 1936:

-Irene Dunne for “Theodora Goes Wild

-Gladys George for Valiant is the Word for Carrie

-Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey

-Norma Shearer for Romeo and Juliet

Of those films, the only one I haven’t seen is “Valiant is the Word for Carrie.”

Shearer, Dunne and Lombard were already established stars and are all excellent in their films.

However here is why I don’t believe they won:

1. “Theodora Goes Wild” and “My Man Godfrey” both were comedic roles. Though comedy is usually more difficult to perform, it doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously with awards.

2. Shearer is good as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” but she is a 34-year-old woman playing a 16-year-old girl. That may not have had anything to do with her not winning the award, but it does make the role less believable.

The 1936 Academy Awards had other odd nominations:

-Deanna Durbin musical “Three Smart Girls” was nominated for Best Picture

-Stuart Erwin was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Pigskin Parade

-Best Song nomination for “Do I Remember?” from “Suzy,” a song performed by a dubbed Jean Harlow.

Apparently, Rainer’s win was also controversial at the time, since she was still rather unknown and the role was considered more a supporting one.

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing "It's Delightful to Be Married."

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing “It’s Delightful to Be Married.”

Some say she won because of the $2 million budget MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer spent on the film (though this doesn’t make since to me, since it also won Best Picture). Others say it’s because of the broken hearted telephone call to Ziegfeld, congratulating him on his marriage to Billie Burke.

Why do I think Rainer won the 1936 Best Actress Award?

I personally wonder if it was process of elimination and reluctance to give the award for a comedic performance.

Who do I feel deserved the award? Either Dunne or Lombard.

Rainer went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1937 for her role as O-Lan, a Chinese woman, in “The Good Earth.” The role is a personal favorite of Rainer’s, and an award I feel she deserved.

Winning the Academy Award two years in a row is something Rainer said was one of the worse things that could have happened to her.

“The Oscar is not the curse,” she said. “The real curse is that once you have an Oscar, they think you can do anything.”

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