Dark Victory (1939) Poster



Bette Davis said that this was her favorite role to play.
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.
During the filming of the emotionally-charged scene when Bette Davis's character needs to find her way upstairs to her room after the brain tumor has caused her blindness, the cast and crew and several visitors were watching as Davis grasped the banister and began to feel her way up the steps, one by one. Halfway to the top of the staircase Davis paused, stopped the scene, briskly walked back downstairs and addressed director Edmund Goulding. "Ed," Davis said, "is Max Steiner going to be composing the music score to this picture?" Goulding, surprised by the question, replied that he didn't know, and asked Davis why the matter was important enough to stop the filming of the scene. "Well, either I'm going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is going to climb those stairs," Davis responded, "but I'll be God-DAMNED if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!"
The scene in Dr. Steele's office where Judith can't light her cigarette, and then a few minutes later she can't light Dr. Steele's, was devised by Edmund Goulding. He explained it as, "When Bette Davis can't light her own cigarette, you know something is seriously wrong with her."
This was Bette Davis' biggest moneymaker up to that point in her career.
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.
This was Bette Davis' third Oscar nomination in five years, and her second of five consecutive nominations.
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 this film. 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.
Bette Davis claims that Edmund Goulding worked on the script and added the character of Judith's best friend Ann so that Judith would never have to complain about her tragedy.
In an interview with Dick Cavett in 1971, Bette Davis said that the movie took four weeks to shoot.
Gloria Swanson had tried and failed to get the movie made a few years earlier.
In 1938 Barbara Stanwyck and Melvyn Douglas starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the play; Stanwyck subsequently hoped to star in the movie version but the role went to Bette Davis. In 1939 Davis and Spencer Tracy starred in another radio version of the story.
The second of Bette Davis' collaborations with director Edmund Goulding. They had previously worked together on That Certain Woman (1937) and would do so again on The Old Maid (1939) and The Great Lie (1941).
Greta Garbo was the original choice for Judith Traherne. Merle Oberon was also considered for the role.
David O. Selznick had originally purchased the screen rights but gave up production plans so he could concentrate all his energies on Gone with the Wind (1939).
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on January 8, 1940 with Bette Davis reprising her film role.
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Based on a play that opened at the Plymouth Theatre in New York on Nov. 9, 1934 (with Tallulah Bankhead originating the role of Judith Traherne) and ran for 51 performances.
Warner Brothers producer Hal B. Wallis bought the property for Miriam Hopkins, but the lead role went to Bette Davis.
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This film's earliest documented telecast took place in Tucson Sunday 9 September 1956 on KDWI (Channel 9); it first aired in Cincinnati Thursday 11 October 1956 on WKRC (Channel 12), in Phoenix Wednesday 21 November 1956 on KVAR (Channel 12), and in Portland OR Friday 4 January 1957 on KLOR (Channel 12).
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