Dark Victory (1939)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  22 April 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 7,091 users  
Reviews: 72 user | 49 critic

A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and must decide whether 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:
George Brent ...
Dr. Parsons
Cora Witherspoon ...
Dorothy Peterson ...
Miss Wainwright
Virginia Brissac ...
Charles Richman ...
Colonel Mantle
Herbert Rawlinson ...
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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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?


Bette Davis pestered Warner Brothers to buy the rights to the story, thinking it a great vehicle for her. WB studio chief Jack L. Warner fought against it, arguing that no one wanted to see someone go blind. Of course, the film went on to become one of the studio's biggest successes of that year. See more »


When Judith is riding the horse and the horse refuses the jump and falls down, Judith (or the stunt-rider) falls on her left side. But in the next scene, when Ann asks, 'How's the shoulder?' Judith wiggles her right shoulder and says it's 'all right.' 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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Referenced in Isn't She Great (2000) See more »


Vienna Blood
(1873) (uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played at the restaurant
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Love or hate her, this film shows why Bette was a star...
5 November 1999 | by (Portland, Oregon) – See all my reviews

By today's standards, "Dark Victory" might seem cliched. Of course, that could be because it was so greatly copied! Here is Bette Davis, a star in the fullness of her talent and ability. Bette simply shines; she owns this film from first frame to last. Ably supported by a wonderful cast (including a somewhat mis-matched Humphrey Bogart as an Irish-brogued horse trainer), it is still difficult to watch the film and not be constantly anticipating Bette's appearance in any scene she isn't in. The ending, even in those days, might have turned out either wimpy or waspish. In Bette's hands, it is neither. It works in a way that literally drains one of emotions. I might also add that, while revealing only a bare back, Bette shows more sensuality than a dozen of today's more "open" actresses.

There is an old disparaging adage about "showing the full gamut from a to b," in this movie Bette not only shows A to Z, but some letters that haven't been invented yet.

Despite my gushing over Ms. Davis, the film is solid in all departments. If you wish to experience when melodrama is great movie-making, see this film.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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