Dark Victory (1939) Poster

(1939)

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  • Dark Victory is based on a 1934 play of the same title by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch. The play was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter Casey Robinson. Dark Victory has been remade twice, first as Stolen Hours (1963) (1963) and then for television as Dark Victory (1976) (1976).

  • Doctor Frederick Steele (George Brent) diagnosed Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) as having a type of brain tumor known as a glioma. A glioma is a malignant tumor that begins in a glial cell in the brain or spinal cord. Malignant gliomas are the most common primary tumors of the central nervous system. They are often resistant to treatment and carry a poor prognosis.

  • Towards the end of the movie, when Judy and Fred are wallowing over their happiness together, Judy says, "Nothing can hurt us now. What we have can't be destroyed. That's our victory...our victory over the dark."

  • When Judy and her secretary, Ann (Geraldine Fitzgerald), are out in the garden, Judy suddenly notices that she can still feel the warm sun on her hands even though everything is going gray, as if a storm was approaching. Judy and Ann both suddenly realize that Judy is going blind and that the end is near. As her visual acuity worsens, Judy begs off accompanying Fred to a medical board meeting in New York where several eminent physicians are convening in order to discuss his possible cure (cut off the oxygen) for Judy's type of brain tumor. She sends him off with a hug, a kiss, and a "Hurry home!" She then says goodbye to Ann and finishes planting some hyacinths for Fred. Now noticeably blinded so that she must feel her way around, Judy goes back into the house and informs her housekeeper, Martha (Virginia Brissac), that she's going upstairs to lie down now. On her way up the stairs, she calls her two dogs and says goodbye to them, then enters her bedroom and closes the door. Martha follows her, and finds her kneeling beside her bed. Martha closes the windowshade as Judy lies down on the bed. Martha covers her with a comforter. "I don't want to be disturbed," Judy says, and Martha leaves the room. The screen then fades to dark, and the movie is over.

  • Challenger, the horse that Judy thought would one day become a champion but that her stablehand, Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart), didn't share such high hopes, apparently went on to run in the Grand National. Just before Judy realizes that she's about to die, she sends off Michael with an OK for spending the $1,000 entry fee. It's said that there originally was to have been a final scene where Challenger wins the Grand National, reducing Michael to tears, but it was cut when preview audiences found it anticlimactic.

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