The Reckless Moment 1949 DVD - James Mason / Joan Bennett
While her husband is away on business, Lucia confronts Darby, a low-life Los Angeles criminal, and demands he stop seeing her 17-year-old daughter, Bea. He agrees, but with the caveat that Lucia pay him. She responds by telling him he has simplified the situation, that when she tells Bea "how deeply you feel about her" the girl will be glad to break off with him.
When Lucia returns home she is confronted by Bea - Darby had telephoned to tell her of her mother's visit. She refuses to believe Darby would mention money in the manner her mother suggests happened.
Lucia forbids her daughter to see Darby again but, that evening, Bea sneaks out to the family's boathouse to meet him. She assures him she does not accept her mother's version of things, but he indicates he could do with some money and that it does not mean the two could not continue to be together. Bea is repulsed by this and, during an ensuing struggle, she hits him and he goes down to his knees. Unknown to her, he shakily tries to follow her but accidentally falls and subsequently dies.
Having discovered Bea missing, Lucia searches for her. When she comes upon the distraught girl, who has just come indoors after her ordeal and reveals it to her mother, Lucia goes to the boathouse; there is nothing amiss and she does not see Darby. The next morning, however, she finds him lying dead by a jetty. She uses a motorboat and disposes of the body in a swamp; it is found, and a murder investigation begins.
Another L.A. criminal, handsome and smooth-talking Donnelly, the partner of Nagel, a brutal loan shark, shows up in possession of letters Bea had written Darby. Nagel had fronted the now-deceased man money and has been holding the writings as collateral. Lucia must now come up with $5,000 to keep Bea's relationship from becoming known.
As Lucia struggles to secure these funds, Donnelly is falling in love with her. He tries to allow her more time, he tells her he has declined his 'cut' and that if she can get half the money, he may be able to mollify Nagel. If he could, he says, he would pay the blackmailer off himself.
After desperately pawning much of her jewelry, Lucia has only $800. When she meets Donnelly to hand this over, he announces that she is in the clear, a man has been arrested in relation to Darby's murder. Lucia is stricken with guilt because she knows Darby was not actually murdered; she tries to convince Donnelly that she is the killer. He will not accept her story and says that while the man in custody may be innocent of this he is "guilty of a hundred other things" and it does not matter, she needs to think of her family.
Later, Donnelly learns that the suspect has been released. When Lucia gets home, her housekeeper says Nagel is waiting in the boathouse. He lets her know the suspect has been "sprung" and that she must pay the full $5,000 immediately. Donnelly arrives and attacks his partner; during the fight, Donnelly is wounded but manages to strangle Nagel to death.
Afterwards, Donnelly talks about his warm feelings for Lucia; she says she will call the police and straighten everything out, she cannot allow him to spend the rest of his life wanted for murder. He asks her for a drink and, while she is gone, Donnelly drives away with Nagel in the car. Lucia follows in her vehicle. While driving, Donnelly reaches into Nagel's pocket to retrieve Bea's letters; he loses control, smashes through a fence and into a tree, overturning the car and trapping himself under it.
When Lucia finds him, he tells her to not assist him, it will be better if the authorities find him this way. He gives her the letters. At home, as Lucia is trying to compose herself, her two children return from an evening out. Her son talks about "seeing a terrible accident". Bea tells Lucia how the police mentioned that, just before dying, the man pinned beneath the vehicle admitted to killing Darby.
James Mason as Martin Donnelly
Joan Bennett as Lucia Harper
Geraldine Brooks as Bea Harper
Henry O'Neill as Tom Harper
Shepperd Strudwick as Ted Darby
David Bair as David Harper
Roy Roberts as Nagel
Frances E. Williams as Sybil (uncredited)
William Schallert as a police lieutenant (uncredited)
Kathryn Card as a loan processor (uncredited)
Runtime: 82 Minutes