Mr. Reckless (March 26, 1948)
Released on March 26, 1948: Oil well driller Jeff Lundy returns to the big city and discovers that his best girl is about to marry someone else.
Directed by Frank McDonald
Written by Maxwell Shane and Milton Raison.
The Actors: William Eythe (Jeff Lundy), Barbara Britton (Betty Denton), Walter Catlett (Joel Hawkins), Minna Gombell (Ma Hawkins), Lloyd Corrigan (Hugo Denton), Nestor Paiva (Gus), Frank Jenks (cab driver), Ian MacDonald (Jim Halsey), James Millican (Pete), Lane Chandler (driller), Harry Cheshire (doctor at wedding), Russ Conway (Al, a wise guy), Tom Dillon (Patrol Officer), Franklyn Farnum (wedding guest), Julia Faye (wedding guest), Sam Flint (oil field guard), Bess Flowers (wedding guest), Donald Kerr (craps player), Frank Marlowe (cab driver), Tom Monroe (drilling worker), Francis Pierlot (Reverend Stanislaus), Tom Quinn (customer), Bob Reeves (patrol driver), Keith Richards (a friend), Lee Roberts (oil driller).
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I live in the old 'rust belt' north, about half way between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland Ohio. Fifty years ago this part of the country was booming, with steel mills aplenty. Any boy with a strong back could get a job that would last all of his working life, and provide enough money to raise a family and enjoy a decent life. Then the mills closed, and for the past forty years jobs have been scarce and poverty has been the norm. Recently though, large deposits of shale have been discovered that can yield up natural gas and oil that promises to bring new prosperity to the area. Land owners all around are signing leases with energy companies and there are constant advertisements on the television asking for men to train for work in the oil and gas fields. There are protesters with signs about the evil 'fracking' technology that they think will ruin the area, but a much larger feeling of euphoria over the possibilities of the area once again becoming a vibrant, growing community with plenty of money in everyone's pocket. When I was a very young man, and the steel mills were still running strong, for a short time I sold life insurance for the New York Life company. My boss was a fellow that liked to wax philosophical from time to time, and I remember him talking with me about the steel mills one day. In those days, the air was almost always filled with the 'smog' from the mills. Laundry detergents had funny commercials about 'ring around the collar' - or the dirt from the air that would collect between a man's shirt collar and his neck as it settled there and was ground into the shirt. I remember my boss telling me of an old immigrant lady who lived near the steel mill hanging her freshly laundered clothing on the lines in the back yard to dry in the sun. With smoke pouring from the mill in the background, and the air smelling like rotten eggs from the sulfur in the air, she refused to complain about the pollution. With her husband and son hard at work in the mill, she would only smile and say that the smell in the air was not the smell of rotten eggs, but rather the smell of money. I imagine that this atmosphere is a bit like what you will see in this movie about love and conflict in the oil fields of 1948.
It is 1948 in America, the world is at peace and it is boom times for any man that wants to work, and there is plenty of testosterone and fists around, and plenty of ladies to fight for. Jeff Lundy has returned from drilling oil wells in Louisiana, and is looking forward to seeing his old girlfriend Betty. But his discovers that Betty is engaged to Gus, and older fellow and friend to Jeff. Betty is going to marry Gus because Gus bailed her dad out of trouble by paying off his gambling debts, and Betty is going to marry him for financial security. Jeff and Gus both love Betty, and Jeff will not offend his buddy Gus by trying to steal Betty back for his own. Things will come to a head when murder and treachery impose themselves onto the plot, and the wedding day for Gus and Betty approaches, as Jeff goes away. Pop a nice bowl of white kernel popcorn and enjoy a romantic tough-man adventure in the prosperous boom-days of big oil in an America that can finally think about life without war.