Promises in the Dark (1979)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  3 April 1980 (Australia)
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Numbed by career demands and a recent divorce, Dr. Alexandra Kendall (Marsha Mason) hides behind a hard shell of professional detatchment - until she treats Buffy Koenig (Kathleen Beller), ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Alexandra Kendall
Bud Koenig
Fran Koenig
Dr. Jim Sandman
Elizabeth (Buffy) Koenig
Gerry Hulin
Dr. Walter McInerny
Philip Sterling ...
Dr. Frucht
Nurse Farber
Dr. Blankenship
Arthur Rosenberg ...
Emergency Room Doctor
Miss Pritikin
Robert Doran ...
Alexandra Johnson ...


Numbed by career demands and a recent divorce, Dr. Alexandra Kendall (Marsha Mason) hides behind a hard shell of professional detatchment - until she treats Buffy Koenig (Kathleen Beller), a dying 17-year-old cancer patient who reawakens Kendall to life's possibilities. Soon the courageous girl's condition takes a downturn - and the physician must carefully, even agonizingly, weigh the consequences of keeping a promise she made to Buffy. Jerome Hellman, producer of such award-winning movies as Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home and The Mosquito Coast, makes his directorial debut on this frank, finely crafted film casting an unflinching yet compassionate eye on illness. Full of memorable performances, Promises in the Dark moves, challenges - and inspires you to live life more fully.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

cancer | See All (1) »


A remarkable film about the most disturbing subject of all.




PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 April 1980 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Obietnica ciemnosci  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Written by Bob Thiele (uncredited) and George David Weiss (uncredited)
Performed by Art Garfunkel, James Taylor & Paul Simon
Courtesy of Columbia Records
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User Reviews

Another acting triumph for Marsha Mason...
25 January 2007 | by (las vegas, nv) – See all my reviews

A teenage girl is treated for a leg injury, but it's soon discovered she has an aggressive form of cancer, which begins taking its toll--physically and emotionally--on the victim, her family, and the female doctor who forms a bond with the youngster. Kathleen Beller plays the unfortunate girl with a mix of belligerence and brashness that is, quite simply, off-putting; her straight-forward cynicism is certainly convincing, and it may be exactly how many cancer patients react when they discover there's very little time left, but it makes for a strident central character who doesn't do much to involve the audience. However, as the doctor, Marsha Mason just about saves the day with a wonderfully natural, sensitive and grounded performance. Given great dialogue by screenwriter Loring Mandel, Mason is able to revel in telling dramatic scenes that evoke whole lives (such as when she talks about her ex-husband, a movie-junkie who could sit through a double feature and then come home and watch television). Mason never sermonizes or stands on a soap-box, she is a caring professional who becomes a close friend (and may have become a mentor) to this girl. The film is occasionally pedestrian or heavy-handed--particularly when focusing on Beller--and that woeful title didn't help it at the box-office. Yet it is strengthened considerably by Mason, one of the finest actresses of the 1970s. **1/2 from ****

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