75 user 47 critic

Dark Victory (1939)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 22 April 1939 (USA)
A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and must decide whether or not she'll meet her final days with dignity.



(screen play), (from the play by) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Dr. Parsons
Cora Witherspoon ...
Dorothy Peterson ...
Miss Wainwright
Virginia Brissac ...
Charles Richman ...
Col. Mantle
Dr. Carter
Leonard Mudie ...
Dr. Driscoll
Fay Helm ...
Miss Dodd
Lottie Williams ...


Judith Traherne is at the height of young society when Dr. Frederick Steele diagnoses a brain tumor. After surgery she falls in love with Steele. The doctor tells her secretary that the tumor will come back and eventually kill her. Learning this, Judith becomes manic and depressive. Her horse trainer Michael, who loves her, tells her to get as much out of life as she can. She marries Steele who intends to find a cure for her illness. As he goes off to a conference in New York failing eyesight indicates to Judith that she is dying. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"I've Crammed EVERY MINUTE SO FULL of waste. And now there's so little time. I don't know what to do. I'm afraid!"


Drama | Romance


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 April 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amarga victoria  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Offscreen, Bette Davis suffered a nervous breakdown during filming as a result of her crumbling marriage to Harmon Nelson. This didn't prevent her from embarking on an affair with co-star George Brent. See more »


When George Brent and Henry Travers are discussing Judith's prognosis based on her "pathological reports"; Henry Travers describes the blindness she will suffer just before death as amblyopia. Amblyopia is the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye that is unrelated to any eye health problem and is not correctable with glasses. It usually develops before the age of six and is not related to cancer. It is sometimes thought to be "lazy eye" but that is actually more correctly called strabismus. See more »


[first lines]
Michael O'Leary: [on the phone] Hello, there. Is this the house? I've been trying to get you.
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Vienna Blood
(1873) (uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played at the restaurant
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User Reviews

Supreme tear-jerker is skillfully handled...
4 May 2006 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

There are three central performances in DARK VICTORY that deserve praise for their sincerity and complete believability--BETTE DAVIS as the spoiled heiress, GEORGE BRENT as the doctor who falls in love with her and GERALDINE FITZGERALD as the conscience of the story, feeling pity and love for her dearest friend.

Davis trounces around through the first half to show us what kind of energy and volatility is flaring beneath the surface--so full of life that when she realizes her illness bears the stamp of "prognosis negative", it's a shock to the audience as well as the actress. She's at her level best in all of the quieter moments--and never more impressive than in the final ten minutes of the film where her character must face the impending death with dignity and the knowledge that she has her husband's love and her best friend's devotion.

The scene in the garden with Fitzgerald at her side is the most luminous in the entire film. It's worth waiting for just to watch two great actresses at work.

Max Steiner's score is fitting at all times--even in the final moments when Bette goes up the stairs accompanied by his melancholy main theme. Edmund Goulding gets sensitive work from his entire cast--with the exception of Ronald Reagan who is given absolutely nothing in the way of character development except to look tipsy in every scene. To say that he is wasted is an understatement. So too is Henry Travers as the doctor who brought Davis into the world. Humphrey Bogart has been criticized for his Irish accent, but he's at least acceptable in a minor role as a horse trainer.

But the three central performances are what hold the film together--and make what is essentially a sob story work so beautifully.

Trivia: George Brent is very effective in the doctor role that was first offered to Basil Rathbone, but then withdrew after a very bad screen test in the part convinced the studio (and Rathbone) that he was all wrong for the role.

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