Dark Victory 1939 Movie Review

February 4, 2013 Whitney movie review 2 Comments

Director: Edmund Goulding
Writers: Casey Robinson (screen play), George Emerson Brewer Jr. (from the play by)
Stars: Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart
Release Date: April 22, 1939

A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and must decide whether she’ll meet her final days with dignity.

Bette Davis is my favorite actress and Dark Victory is one of my favorite movies.  Although I might not have made this statement if Bette hadn’t pestered Warner Bros to buy the rights to Dark Victory; Jack Warner skeptically broke down, commenting “Who wants to see a dame go blind?”  When Dark Victory became a box office success, he ate his words.

In Dark Victory, Bette Davis plays Judith Traherne who begins having frequent “hang-overs” eventually leading her to brain surgeon Fredrick Steele (George Brent) who operates at alarming speed removing a tumor; although she is still going to die.  Doctor Steele makes the executive decision not to disclose this and lets Judith go on her merry way.  Later though, (and after she discovers she is a ticking time bomb) they marry, to death do they part.

Although… I myself had brain surgery and even though this is one of my favorite movies I usually end up yelling at the screen because of its inaccuracies.  Besides Bette Davis having a cigarette moments before surgery (oh the good old days) my biggest problem was her hair growth.

She went from this…
cap is covering supposed “bald spot”
To This…
In six months I had a buzz cut.  What is her secret?
On this watch I realized what an annoying spoiled brat Judith was and didn’t understand how she had so many potential suitors i.e. Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart and George Brent so really didn’t care if she lived or died; but yet somehow Bette Davis had me moved to tears by the end.  She is just that good.  The storyline, while maybe a little melodramatic (being the trend in 1939) I still think it is brilliant and like Jack Warner, on first viewing believed it was a subject that is not to be touched upon.  Although now we have so many fatal illnesses movies from Stepmom to Wit that it seems the norm.  Have I mentioned I love this movie?  with a fantastic cast and plot Dark Victory deserves nothing less that prognosis positive.


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2 responses to “Dark Victory 1939 Movie Review

  1. It sounds wonderful. I've never watched this movie (in fact, I've never watched far too many movies, so I've been toying with the idea of a project to remedy this. Any suggestions?), but I definitely will sometime soon. Great post.

  2. I think it depends what kind of films you like. I'm a huge Bette Davis fan, so I think anything with her is a winner (but I suggest not watching anything post "Baby Jane".) Although, if you like current films Capote and The Artist are fantatstic and if you like foreign films I just watched Incedies but it is also a little disturbing.

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