Cast & Crew
Howard W. Koch
Mamie Van Doren
One night during rodeo week, trick rider Jackie Adams sings a number at a local bar and is later accosted by sports writer Mark Wilson when she walks outside. Hearing her screams, rodeo rider Kelly Cobb comes to her defense, but is chased off by other riders who wish to ingratiate themselves with Mark and win favorable rodeo reviews. After driving off in his car with friend Cool Man, Kelly discovers Jackie has stowed away in his back seat. Upon stopping for the night at his friend Eve Tuttle's motel, Kelly explains to Jackie that Eve lost her husband in a rodeo accident, but, knowing the danger, he remains a rodeo rider so that he can buy some property and soon retire with his earnings.
At the nearby Little River rodeo, after Jackie gives Kelly the additional money he needs to register for special events, Kelly competes in bronco riding, bulldogging with Cool Man, calf roping and a Roman riding race in which the men ride standing on two separate horses in a race around the ring. After Kelly wins most of the competitions, but discovers that an event organizer has stolen the prize money and fled town, Cool Man suggests they leave town as well, fearing the townsmen might accuse Kelly, a stranger in town, of the crime. That night, Jackie sings for their dinner at a club, but when she meets with the club owner to ask for a job, he attacks her, forcing Kelly once again to intercede.
The next day, Kelly takes Cool Man and Jackie home to the ranch of his close friends Papa and Mama Gomez, their children and Grandpa. Although Kelly has sent his winnings to Papa who dreams of owning the surrounding land, Kelly keeps borrowing the money back and consequently owes him money. The next day, as Kelly prepares for the Panamint Rodeo, wealthy divorcée Liz entices him to come to her house for a party. Although Jackie is jealous, Kelly ignores her protests. That night at the Gomez ranch, when Jackie laments that she must wait a little longer for Kelly to recognize her love, Papa advises her to wait until after the next day's rodeo before giving up on the cowboy.
The following day, after Jackie performs her trick riding, Kelly, hungover from a night with Liz, performs poorly, nearly killing Cool Man in their team calf roping efforts. That night, Cool Man, who trained Kelly, is distraught over his protégée's failings and flagrant disrespect for Jackie's feelings by flaunting his friendship with Liz, "that cheap saddle trash," in front of her. Cool Man and Papa drink to excess to forget their disappointment in Kelly. Meanwhile, Jackie drives to Liz's house, where she finds Liz pulling Kelly into an embrace.
Furious, she pushes them into the pool and tells them to "cool off." The next day, as Papa and Cool Man nurse their hangovers, Kelly prepares for the rodeo. Kelly easily wins the calf roping, bronco riding, steer wrestling and bull riding competitions, then celebrates his win by buying the bar patrons a round of drinks while watching Jackie saunter from one male customer to another singing a sultry song. When Mark attempts to molest Jackie again, Kelly comes to her rescue and she apologizes while tending to his bruised face. Soon after, Kelly admits his love for Jackie and hands his winnings to Papa's young son Manuel, asking him to return it to Papa and tell him that they will be back soon with enough money to start a ranch and give up the dangerous rodeo life.
Howard W. Koch
Mamie Van Doren
Johnny Olenn And His Group
Fred Blau Jr.
Marjorie O. Best
Joseph F. Biroc
Jack T. Collis
John F. Schreyer
Van Doren plays Jackie Adams, a barroom crooner and rodeo rider who can seem sultry, needy, or tomboyish depending on the circumstances. When her singing attracts too much attention from a lecherous journalist in a saloon, rescue comes from Kelly Cobb, a hard-working rider who competes in every rodeo on the circuit, determined to raise the purchase price of a ranch where he can settle down and be his own boss.
Jackie becomes Kelly's traveling companion, but you know how men are - all he thinks about is scraping up the entry fee for the next rodeo on his schedule, and then he gets distracted by Liz, a glamorous woman with money to spare. The secondary characters include a crusty sidekick named Cool Man - an inexplicable moniker, since he's really an old coot - and a lovable rancher named Papa Gomez, who bails out Kelly in a time of need while tending to his own stereotypical Mexican-American hacienda.
The most interesting aspect of Born Reckless is the mix of different genres packed into its screenplay. (It was written by Richard Landau from an original story he penned with Aubrey Schenck, who was Koch's partner at the indie company Bel-Air Productions in the 1950s.) It's definitely a rodeo picture, presenting an even-handed portrait of what it's like to be a professional in the field. Kelly is terrific at what he does, but he faces huge challenges and dangers - there's no horse that can't be rode, no rider who can't be throwed - and he spends a considerable chunk of the story in an awful slump (as mentioned, Liz is mighty distracting). Koch's movie doesn't live up to the great rodeo-movie classics, such as Nicholas Ray's The Lusty Men (1952) and Cliff Robertson's J.W. Coop (1971), but it's a diverting entry in the genre.
Born Reckless is also a western, of course, complete with Cool Man as the sort of crusty sidekick played in the 1930s and '40s by George "Gabby" Hayes and Andy Devine, then rehashed by Pat Buttram and Pat Brady in TV horse operas of the '50s. And the film is as much a musical as anything else, with several rockabilly and country numbers sung by Van Doren, the celebrated Tex Williams, and others. Last but far from least, Born Reckless is a romantic drama, in which (spoiler alert) love eventually conquers all. Koch handles these contrasting modes with aplomb, given the obviously low budget at his disposal.
Koch had his hands full with the cast, however. Van Doren is...well, Van Doren, which is both a plus and minus. On one hand, she isn't what you call an overly skilled actress. On the other hand, she's brash and lively, and since brashness and liveliness are all this picture requires from her, she fits the bill nicely. She had a busy year in 1958, appearing in George Seaton's romantic comedy Teacher's Pet with Clark Gable and Doris Day, and in Jack Arnold's delinquency drama High School Confidential! with Russ Tamblyn and Jerry Lee Lewis, before shifting gears for Born Reckless. She was a real Hollywood trouper in those days, and it's regrettable that her popularity declined so quickly soon thereafter.
Kelly is played by Jeff Richards, a former Minor League baseball player with a trim physique and a preposterously handsome face. His career also waned in the early 1960s, but here he's generally up to the job, even if the documentary-style footage of rodeo action clearly features stunt doubles and authentic cowboys. Arthur Hunnicutt portrays Cool Man with the air of a small-time Walter Brennan, and Carol Ohmart makes Liz a credible third party for the story's love triangle. Mexican-born actor Nacho Galindo, fresh from Budd Boetticher's 1958 classic Buchanan Rides Alone, is fine as Papa Gomez.
Born Reckless is one of five pictures (plus a TV episode) that Koch directed in 1958; the others range from a Frankenstein knockoff to the last gasp of the Andy Hardy series. The cinematographer, Joseph F. Biroc, shot it between (among other assignments) three Samuel Fuller films (China Gate, Run of the Arrow, Forty Guns) in 1957 and another one (Verboten!) in 1959. The serviceable score was composed by Buddy Bregman, who deserves a nod as well. Solid professionals all, they joined with Van Doren to craft a minor entertainment that accomplishes its modest tasks with a minimum of fuss. Fans of western-musical-rodeo-romantic cinema should enjoy it.
Director: Howard W. Koch
Producer: Aubrey Schenck
Screenplay: Richard Landau; story by Richard Landau and Aubrey Schenck
Cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc
Film Editing: John F. Schreyer
Art Direction: Jack T. Collis
Music: Buddy Bregman
Cast: Mamie Van Doren (Jackie Adams), Jeff Richards (Kelly Cobb), Arthur Hunnicutt (Cool Man), Carol Ohmart (Liz), Tom Duggan (Wilson), Tex Williams (Tex), Donald Barry (Okie), Nacho Galindo (Papa Gomez), Orlando Rodriguez (Manuel), Johnny Olenn and his Group (Themselves), Allegra Varron (Mama Gomez), Jim Canino (Jose), Jovon Monteid (Dolores), Jack Loomis (Mayor), Asa Maynor (Trailer Camp Girl), Jeanne Carmen (Rodeo Girl), Doye O'Dell (Rodeo Official), Ann Staunton (Eve), Ed Hinton (Spade), Ray Beltram (Grandfather), Jack Welden (Rodeo Announcer), Malcolm Roselle (Rodeo Announcer), Yvonne Vasquez (Lola), Christina Vasquez (Chiquita).
by David Sterritt
The opening and closing cast credits differ somewhat. According to a January 12, 1958 Los Angeles Examiner news item, at least one rodeo sequence in the film was shot in Saugus, CA. The article added rodeo professionals Wag Blessing, Dee Cooper, Ray Thomas, Bob Burrows, Bill Williams, Frank Ellis, Vern Goodrich, Erwin Neal, Wallace Brooks and Le Roy Johnson to the cast; however, their appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Although a November 19, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Carl Guthrie was to be the film's cameraman, only Joseph F. Biroc is credited onscreen, in production charts and reviews.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959