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Dark Victory (1939)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 22 April 1939 (USA)
A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and must decide whether she'll meet her final days with dignity.

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(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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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

"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!"

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

22 April 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amarga victoria  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper was notorious for not verifying her sources. She reported that director Edmund Goulding had engaged Sigmund Freud as technical adviser for "Dark Victory." If she had checked on her scoop, she would have found out that the world's most famous psychiatrist had been dead for several months. See more »

Goofs

(at around 56 mins) There is a brief shot of a violinist miming badly to the soundtrack. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michael O'Leary: [on the phone] Hello, there. Is this the house? I've been trying to get you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Relax... It's Just Sex (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

OH, GIVE ME TIME FOR TENDERNESS
(1939) (uncredited)
Music by Edmund Goulding
Lyrics by Elsie Janis
Sung by Vera Van
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Frequently Asked Questions

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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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