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  • Judith is a wealthy Long Island society girl given to a dizzy lifestyle… Self-assured of her affluence and her faculty over men, she is unprepared for tragedy, which strikes in the form of a brain tumor… The underlying bravery and courage with which she faces this physical suffering eventually demonstrates the woman of substance that she is…

    Among her friends is Ann King (Fitzgerald), her secretary, and handsome young Alex Hamm (Reagan), who directs her toward brain specialist Dr. Frederick Steele (Brent). The doctor diagnoses her illness as one which will end her life within a year… Judith falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage… When she discovers that her tumor is calamitous, she rejects the doctor's proposal considering it an act with compassion…

    Davis provides scene after scene with the special magic only she was able of bringing vividly…

    Swept into the current of events was Bogart playing an Irish horse trainer, who fails in an attempt to make love to her, yet encourages her to enjoy her time with her true love, George Brent…

    The film was remade in 1963 as "Stolen Hours" with Susan Hayward, and as a 1976 TV movie under its original title with Elizabeth Montgomery…
  • By today's standards, "Dark Victory" might seem cliched. Of course, that could be because it was so greatly copied! Here is Bette Davis, a star in the fullness of her talent and ability. Bette simply shines; she owns this film from first frame to last. Ably supported by a wonderful cast (including a somewhat mis-matched Humphrey Bogart as an Irish-brogued horse trainer), it is still difficult to watch the film and not be constantly anticipating Bette's appearance in any scene she isn't in. The ending, even in those days, might have turned out either wimpy or waspish. In Bette's hands, it is neither. It works in a way that literally drains one of emotions. I might also add that, while revealing only a bare back, Bette shows more sensuality than a dozen of today's more "open" actresses.

    There is an old disparaging adage about "showing the full gamut from a to b," in this movie Bette not only shows A to Z, but some letters that haven't been invented yet.

    Despite my gushing over Ms. Davis, the film is solid in all departments. If you wish to experience when melodrama is great movie-making, see this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the film of which Davis is supposed to have said "There are some pictures that should nevah be remade!" - and time has proved that she was right. Despite two updates/remakes, one theatrical ("Stolen Hours" with Susan Hayward) and one for TV (as "Dark Victory" with Elizabeth Montgomery) it's this 1939 Warner Bros. film which is still best remembered today. The reason, of course, is Bette Davis. She often insisted that there wasn't one of her greatest roles she didn't have to fight to get, and Judith Traherne was one of those roles. She pestered Jack Warner to buy it for her, and when he responded "Who wants to see a picture about a dame who goes blind and dies?" Davis assured him that at least ten million women would - and she was right.

    And so we have a vibrant, touching performance that is among the most famous jewels in the crown of Bette Davis. "I'm young and strong and nothing can touch me!" she proclaims, and almost makes us believe it. We see her go through the denial/anger/bargaining/acceptance phases of her illness long before anyone named those stages. And when she looks George Brent in the eye and says "Poor fool - don't you know I'm in love with you?" we know from the way she says it that she's never said it before. Yes, it's quite possible that had GWTW not been released in the last weeks of December 1939, the question of who would be the first actress to win 3 Best Actress Oscars might well have been settled long before 1968.

    Yes - we have to suspend disbelief here - Bogart with an Irish brogue? Surely his name - O'Leary - should have been enough. And the scene near the end when Davis packs Brent's suitcase to send him off - how could he not notice her fumbling around the room? Ah well, "it's only a mooovie, Ingrid. . . ." as a famous director once said.

    "Dark Victory" may not be great cinematic art, but it's a thoroughly professional effort and it's obvious that the people who made it cared about it. Movie fans have been caring about it for 66 years, and continue to do so: a newly-remastered DVD will be released in June.
  • I was probably 12 years old when I first saw this film on TV. It was shown in two parts and I didn't get to see the second part, so my mother had to tell me what happened. Forty years later, I still cry every time I see "Dark Victory." It remains one of my favorite films for sheer use of Kleenex and my favorite Bette Davis movie, "All About Eve" being right up there with it. I even saw it on the big screen in a revival house when I was in college. Yes, some of the dialogue sounds corny now, like the good doctor saying, "Women never meant anything to me before". But the interesting thing is, when I did see it with an audience, though they laughed as some inappropriate spots, by the end you could hear the sobs on the next block.

    There have been comments that Humphrey Bogart seems miscast in a somewhat minor role. I frankly thought he was just fine. He certainly was short enough to be a jockey and he pulled off the brogue. I'm sure it's confusing for some to see him in such a small role in 1939 when only a few years later, he was a total superstar. But he was under contract to Warners and kicked around for years before "High Sierra" and "Casablanca". He obviously wasn't working when "Dark Victory" was cast, so why let him sit around taking a salary and do nothing?

    And of course we have Ronald Reagan as a playboy. I actually find him delightful in this film. It called for charm and he had it.

    In today's fast-paced world, there's nothing stronger than a message about time and our use of it. "Oh, give me time for tenderness...just give me time." Like Bette's character, I want to hear that song again too, in many more viewings of "Dark Victory."
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Coming in the middle of her tumultuous, 18-year reign as Queen of the Warner Bros. studio, this classic 1939 tearjerker proved to be the ideal vehicle for the mercurial talents of Bette Davis in her prime in a year marked by so many other memorable films. Adapted by longtime studio screenwriter Casey Robinson from a short-lived 1934 Broadway play, the story involves Judith Traherne, a frivolous, self-absorbed heiress, living hard in the fast lane at 23, who finds herself confronting her own mortality with the discovery of an inoperable brain tumor. Naturally, she denies anything is wrong with her at first but faces the reality of her condition by eventually rising to the occasion with courage and integrity. It has been the subject of many parodies and at least two remakes in the past seventy years, but the original still works best thanks to Davis' career-defining performance.

    Besides Davis and Max Steiner's equally emotional score, the movie itself has not aged as well due to the pedestrian work of director Edmund Goulding ("Grand Hotel") in guiding the venture and lackluster contributions from the supporting cast, one of whom is seriously miscast In hindsight. Judith's Long Island social world is full of hard-drinking party types like the perpetually drunk Alec who tries to woo her into marriage. He's not the only one as Irish stable hand Michael is equally smitten with Judith, but there's the social class distinction to consider. The novelty is that a young Ronald Reagan plays Alec and Humphrey Bogart, two years from his breakthrough in "The Maltese Falcon", plays Michael. Reagan does not make much of an impact, but Bogart is sorely miscast as Michael to the point of being distracting as Davis blows him off the screen, in particular, a late-night failed seduction scene when she dismissively half-asks him, "You're making love to me, aren't you?"

    However, it is Judith's steady best friend Ann and especially the stalwart brain-cell specialist Dr. Steele who help Judith in her true victory over the dark. Both Geraldine Fitzgerald and constant Davis co-star George Brent do solid work in the roles, but nothing nearly at Davis' caliber. Perhaps this was intentional, but it does make for an odd imbalance to the film. Regardless, the last twenty minutes pull at the requisite heartstrings as Judith faces her fate with a heavenly choir. It's a grand Davis sequence worthy of her legacy. The print in the 2005 DVD release is nicely restored. Film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton provide a perceptive commentary track, and there is a short featurette that explains how the film's reputation has unfairly suffered over the years. See the film itself for the vibrancy and depth of Davis' performance which hasn't aged a bit.
  • whpratt122 December 2007
    This is definitely a tear-jerker involving a young socialite Judith Traherne, (Betty Davis) who is full of life and an only child who gets her own way all the time, but is well liked by everyone. Judith loves horses and enjoys riding them and performing with them in various horse shows. The trainer of these horses is Michael O'Leary, (Humphrey Bogart) who loves his work and likes Judith because of her love for animals. One day Judith is riding her horse and her vision becomes blurred and she sees double and falls off the horse. It seems Judy is having bad headaches but does not mention it to anyone and her own doctor refers her to a Dr. Frederick Steele, (George Brent) who is a brain surgeon. Ronald Reagan appears in this film as a playboy drunk who is always drinking. Great performance by all the actors, but bring the tissue box, you will need it.
  • bkoganbing3 October 2005
    While I was watching my VHS copy of Dark Victory this afternoon, there was a quote from Bette Davis that her role of Judith Traherne was her most personal and that it was 98% of me.

    It certainly is one of her most moving performances on celluloid. The movie is her show as so many of her Warner Brothers films were becoming at this point in her career. The rest of the cast almost stands back in awe of her.

    We would call Judith Traherne a trust fund baby these days. Poppa made a fortune and drank himself to death, Mom is over in Europe as an expatriate. And she's got a big house on Long Island where she raises steeple chasers and gives a lot of parties.

    But she's not an airhead. Bette Davis never was in any of her films. She's been having headaches and now blurred vision has been thrown in as a complication. When she crashes one of her horses into a side rail we the audience know right away that there are some serious health issues.

    Dr. George Brent is called in on the case, he's a brain specialist. He operates and it's a success, but only in terms of relieving the symptoms. She's got a death sentence hanging over her.

    The rest of the film is how she deals with it. Only an actress of incredible skill could have brought off the many mood changes that Judith Traherne has. If it wasn't for the fact that 1939 was the Gone With the Wind year, Davis might have gotten a third Oscar. She was nominated and lost to Vivien Leigh.

    Humphrey Bogart was in this as her stable groom with an Irish accent that he was clearly uncomfortable with. My guess was that the brogue was there to emphasize the class distinction between Davis and Bogart. I'm not sure it was all that necessary for him, but at least it wasn't as laughable as the Mexican accent in Virginia City.

    Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan are on hand as her two close friends. I understand that in the novel this is based on, Reagan's character is gay. This was the days of the Code, so gay was out. Probably in the long run helped Reagan's later career, given his politics playing a gay character wouldn't have gotten him entrée into his crowd. Still both he and Fitzgerald do very well as a couple of her friends who have a lot more character than most of them.

    George Brent was Davis's perennial leading man. She was involved with him romantically at some point during her Warner Brothers period, I'm not sure if it was during the making of Dark Victory. He was a competent player who Davis could be sure would never upstage her.

    I did however hear a clip from a radio performance of Dark Victory and George Brent's part was played by Spencer Tracy. Though Brent played in fact in the underplaying style that Tracy was known for, I'm sure if Tracy had ever done the film he'd have brought touches to the character that Brent could never have done. What a classic that would have been.

    Dark Victory is a moving story that never descends into soap opera. This is Bette Davis at her finest.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Out of all the films she made, Bette Davis thought this her finest role and greatest performance. That's a pretty big statement from a woman considered to be perhaps the finest screen actress of all time, and one who turned in countless excellent performances. Yet Davis is truly fantastic here, as is Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald in a supporting role. It's a pity that other elements of the film don't hold up as well today (or even back then) as the acting of Davis and Fitzgerald.

    At it's most basic, DARK VICTORY is pure melodrama. Society girl Judith Trahene, who spends most of her time riding horses and throwing wild parties, is shocked into discovering the true meaning of life when she finds out that she has an incurable brain tumour. At first, her doctor (George Brent, who falls in love with Davis) decides not to tell Davis the true extent of her illness after surgery (medical ethics are questionable here, yet it's a plot device). However, Bette finds out and, even though she does succumb, she dies gracefully, having some sort of "victory" over the dark.

    As I said earlier, Davis and Fitzgerald are magnificent. Fitzgerald gave two great supporting performances in 1939 (the other came in WUTHERING HEIGHTS) and I believe this lovely Irish lady would have walked away with Oscar (she was nominated for the Goldwyn film)had GONE WITH THE WIND not also premiered that year (Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar, in a tight race over Olivia de Havilland. Davis believed she deserved the Best Actress Oscar for this film, and while she is terrific, I feel Vivien Leigh was the rightful choice that year.

    So, let's look at the rest of the film. Brent was a frequent Davis co-star, and although he lacked good looks and a strong screen personality, he seemed to complement her well, and he is quite good in his role. Henry Travers appears briefly as Davis' life-long doctor who sadly cannot help her. Ronald Reagan has a small role as a playboy, and he doesn't have to do much except act tipsy. Bogart is terribly miscast-actually, I think it's the worst Bogart performance I have ever seen (though I have not yet caught up with the infamous SWING YOUR LADY or DOCTOR X, but do I really want to??). He's the horse trainer, Michael, and it's hard to believe Bogart could ever be ineffectual or cringe-worthy in a film, but watch this and find out.

    As for the technical elements, they are indeed well-polished yet not in the league of other films of that same great year. The script is reasonably strong, yet it has a few overly melodramatic moments that probably wouldn't have worked well in 1939, and definitely don't hold up well today.

    Greatest scene on the film? Fitzgerald and Davis in the garden.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

    Bette Davis gives a virtuoso performance here as Judith Traherne, a young, rich, headstrong woman who has a brain tumor. At first she denies her symptoms, the headaches, the blurred vision, the loss of sensitivity in her right arm, the fainting spells, but then she is taken to Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) who is about to quit his practice and devote himself to medical research. A wonderfully animated Bette Davis shows us how a young woman might react as she is won over by a man to whom she is becoming increasingly attracted. As he examines her she goes through the stages of reluctance, acquiescence, attraction, and then the headlong fall toward love.

    Dark Victory is famously known as a "three-hankies tear-jerker" and it is that for sure. If you can keep a dry eye through the last reel, you need to have your pulse taken. This is a tragedy with a silver lining, a human victory over the darkness to come. It is melodramatic with the focus on the utter capriciousness of the tumor that medical science cannot arrest, and on what it is like to go from happiness to despair, to the depths of depression, and then to acceptance and even a since of triumph. Davis takes us on this bumpy ride in a most convincing manner.

    Humphrey Bogart is the trainer of horses who loves Judith from afar. Geraldine Fitzgerald plays Judy's best friend Ann King. Ronald Reagan has a small part as Alec Hamm, a rich drunk. Edmund Goulding directed. He is the auteur of many fine movies from the studio days of Hollywood, most notably perhaps, The Razor's Edge (1946) and Of Human Bondage (1946). The movie was adapted from the stage play by George Emerson Bremer Jr. and Betram Bloch.

    (Beware of possible spoilers to come.) I would like to see the script of that play because I think there is something in this movie that was handled so delicately as to be unrealistic and even unnatural. Although Dr. Steele and Judith declare their undying love for one another, we do not see them in a scene involving physical passion. The reason for this may have been because Goulding didn't know what to do about sex and the consequences of sex in a married woman who has but a few months to live. The implication is that their marriage may not have been consummated in the usual sense.

    Also handled delicately--but very well, I think--is the relationship between Ann and Dr. Steele. At one point Judith has reason to believe that Ann and Dr. Steele have been intimate, but they have not, and she comes to realize that, although they have grown close because of their mutual love for Judith. Yet at the end Judy makes her friend swear that she will take care of Frederick after she is gone. We in the audience believe that she will and we also believe that that "care" is bound to blossom into something more.

    If you want to know how Bette Davis became a great star, this movie is a great place to begin. She considered this her favorite role of a lifetime and it is not hard to see why. The part allows for a wide range of emotion. Vivacious, energetic Judith is a sympathetic character, yet there are places in the story where Davis is able to be the hard, mean Bette Davis that we know from other movies, and other places where she is as light and frivolous as an airy teen.
  • Bette Davis always cited this as her favourite role: it is probably on a par with Margo Channing in ALL ABOUT EVE as the part which fans identify with as definitive Davis. Naturally, this 1939 film will look a little musty, corny and cliched to modern day viewers, but the poignant sincerity in which Davis instilled via her magnificent performance still has the ability to leave the viewer in helpless tears: you can be dumbfounded to think that something so obviously aimed at your tear ducts could succeed to induce the flow so completely and spontaneously! The role is based upon a 1934 play in which Tallulah Bankhead flopped. The character of Ann King was written especially for the film by director Edmund Goulding: as a kind of Greek Chorus so Judith wouldn't have to complain about the inevitable. Geraldine Fitzgerald, in her American film debut, does a wondrous job with the part of Ann: a beautifully etched supporting performance. As Michael O'Leary, Humphrey Bogart is unfortunately inept in the Irish brogue department (why couldn't they have simply cut out the accent?) and George Brent is adequately wooden as Dr. Frederick Steele whom Judy marries. Davis slams through a gooey collection of cliches in her nerviest style during the early segments but her metamorphasis into a vibrantly humbled married woman is quite a striking contrast to the selfishly brazen spoiled heiress: truly a multi-faceted performance. Ronald Reagan gets to play Alec, one of Judy's drunken swains, and Cora Witherspoon is memorable as the snotty Carrie. The last twenty minutes of the film are expertly crafted and timelessly tear-jerking: the movie sold more kleenex than any other of its day.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Judith Traherne, under other circumstances, could be that unsympathetic rich bitch that parties hard, hasn't a care in the world, and is a victim of her own whims much like today's Paris Hilton. Of course, had this film been done today with the character molded after the blond twit, we would have not just hoped she met her maker but maybe spawned a hideous creature from inside that tumor growing inside her head and gone to Hell in a hand-basket. Instead, Judith is not without her good points -- she's flighty and impulsive but not a mean person. She has it all... until she begins to get those pesky fainting spells and persistent headaches.

    An actress who was at the top of her game at the time of the release of this movie, Bette Davis displays a marvelous gamut of emotions which layer her facial features and body language. This of course is crucial to understanding her character's psyche and if at times it seems a little overacted it's only because of the style of the times. Otherwise, her Judith rises above the male actors around her and comes to accept her destiny with beautiful dignity. Geraldine Fitzgerald, playing her friend and secretary Ann, is equally understated but moving as the one who stays by Judith's side. Both women reflect an interesting sisterhood about them; the transference of strength from one to the other is deeply affecting and one of quiet tears. Bette's final death scene is one of transcendent luminosity.

    Nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Actress and Music Score, DARK VICTORY found itself pinned under the massive competition that came out in 1939 and received not one, but stands today as one of Davis' quintessential pictures.
  • jotix1003 November 2004
    "Dark Victory" is a classic film of the 30s. In some movies, like this one, all the elements came together to create a satisfying entertainment that has delighted audiences since its release in 1939. Edmund Golding was instrumental in getting one of the best performances out of Bette Davis. The movie is helped by the fine score of Max Steiner.

    As Judith Treherne, Bette Davis shows us why she was a great actress. She does some of her best work in this picture. Her interpretation of the socialite is right on target. Ms. Davis goes from a happy go lucky rich girl into the woman who has to face an imminent death. This film is so enjoyable because of the nuances Ms. Davis brought to the role. Bette Davis' range was enormous.

    George Brent, as the medical specialist who tries to help Judith, and falls in love with her in the process, is also quite good as Dr. Steele. Geraldine Fitzgerald is wonderful as Ann, Judith's loyal friend. Humphrey Bogart appears briefly as the horse trainer. Henry Travers put in a small appearance as the doctor who brought Judith into the world, and sadly, is not able to help her much. Also in the cast, Ronald Reagan, who doesn't have much to do.

    This is the perfect film to watch the wonderful Bette Davis at her best.
  • Not only is this sublime classic the greatest tear-jerker of all time (well, let's call it a tie with "Lassie Come Home"), it also contains one of the greatest performances ever given by Bette Davis. In the hands of a lesser actress this movie could have been a soppy pot-boiler. In the hands of Ms Davis it is close to being a masterpiece. If most of the supporting players can't match her it's no wonder - Bette is truly inspired here! The normally fine Geraldine Fitzgerald seems rather self-conscious in a difficult role (and an early one for her), and George Brent can't handle the really emotional stuff. But Bogart is stunning in that sexually charged scene with Bette in the stables. Ronnie doesn't have much to do, but Virginia Brissac is memorable as Martha and Henry Travers terrific as the old doctor.

    Above all this is the excellent direction of Edmund Goulding, the fine cinematography of Ernest Haller and the great music of Max Steiner. Sure, dying in real life is never this beautiful, but don't we all wish we could go out with the style that Bette Davis does? Be warned: the last 15 minutes of this film are almost torturously moving - but then ALL of "Lassie Come Home" is. And don't we just love a good cry!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Bette Davis may have had several roles that the public identify with her more than Judith Traherne. But Judith's plight is actually the most tragic of all of them. Judith is young, attractive, lively, and rich. But she's suffering from a brain tumor.

    A line of dialog at the start of the film made me wonder how really up-to-date the screenplay was. Dr. Frederick Steel (George Brent) is a society surgeon with a great practice, but he is about to leave New York City for his farm/laboratory in Vermont to do research into cells (particularly those that turn deadly as in cancer cells and tumors). He is telling a visitor about a recent patient of his - a promising composer who had started working on a new composition just before Steel performed brain surgery. As he says very sadly the operation was a success but the patient died. In 1939 Americans would have picked up on that particular line. A year earlier America's leading popular composer, George Gershwin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had a well reported operation in Los Angeles, California. He survived about a week.

    Dr. Steel is approached by a colleague Dr. Parsons (Harry Travers) regarding Ms Traherne. Besides being a family friend and the doctor who brought her into the world, Parsons was one of a dozen witnesses the previous week when Judith took a spill on one of her champion horses. She has been complaining (but dismissing) a series of headaches. Steel agrees to see Traherne (who is sitting outside with her friend and secretary Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Traherne is friendly but again dismissive of the problem of the headaches. Steel is keen eyed enough to see that Judith is having problems focusing her eyes, and reacts badly to sunlight (she's squinting too much), and she is burning her fingers (due to accidents while lighting her cigarettes). Steel drops his plans to go to Vermont in order to take care of Judith.

    There is an operation, and it is an apparent success. In the meantime Judith and Frederick begin finding each other rather pleasant company and a romance begins. Judith resumes her social activities with her equestrian shows (involving her horse trainer Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart)), and her social set involving her male pal Alec Hamm (Ronald Reagan). But she is soon aware of Frederick and Ann spending too much time together, and while first thinking the obvious she soon comes across a medical report from some expert that Frederick uses on his serious cases. She confronts them at a restaurant with the knowledge that she is fully aware that while the operation was a temporary success the tumor cells are reemerging.

    After a period where Judith tries to forget the coming disaster with Alec and her chums, she finds little solace there. Her best adviser at this point is Michael, who tells her she should try to find as much happiness for her remaining days as she can. The irony (for Michael, of course) is that he always has loved Judith but he can't compete with Frederick. Nor can Alec, who later confesses as much to Frederick*

    (*Ronald Reagan later explained that Edmund Goulding told him to play Alec as an alcoholic homosexual. This was a bit beyond what Reagan liked to be seen as, so he did not go as far out as Goulding wanted him to do. Yet to be fair, Alec's behavior as Judith's closest male confidante comes close to what Goulding suggested. Besides, one can make a similarly negative comment about Bogart's use of an Irish accent, but for the purposes of the film it's fine.)

    SPOILER COMING UP:

    Frederick and Judith get married, and we see her doing everything in her power to be as loving and close a wife as she can, while Frederick is trying to live for her each day without thinking of the inevitable. They do leave the New York City and Long Island Social Set for Vermont, and she does help him set up his lab and (with Ann along as secretary) sets up his professional lecture and conference appointments. It seems to be working, but then comes the last fifteen minutes of the film.

    Frederick has a conference out of state, and has to catch a train. Judith has been helping him pack, but while out in her garden with Ann she is aware that she is seeing less and less. Ann becomes aware of this too, but Judith tells her not to say a word - they both know that it is the sign of the last minutes of her life. They go through a careful pantomime where Judith acts as though nothing is amiss, and Frederick is unaware that the end is approaching as he leaves. With the help of Ann and her servant Carrie (Cora Witherspoon) Judith gets up stairs to lie down on her bed and die with dignity.

    I can only add that my description of the last twenty minutes does not do close to full justice to how Davis and Fitzgerald handle that last portion of the film. DARK VICTORY happens to be one of those "women's pictures" that really work. The subject, for a change, is dramatic but realistic. While sex triangles and unhappy marriages and alcoholism are parts of life, most of us relate to the fragility of life and how it can all come crashing down due to our physical construction. It's bad enough for the bulk of us, but when (like Traherne) you have one of the best of life styles it is agonizing. Unlike so many of these so-called "women's pictures", DARK VICTORY is one that men find as fascinating to watch as women.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am a huge Gone With the Wind fan and love Vivian Leigh, so when I heard that Dark Vicrory's Bette Davis lost the Oscar by a very few votes, I was surprised. Even though Bette Davis is my favorite actress of all time. So I watched Dark Victory. I love this movie and now feel that Bette should have won, it was the greatest acting her career. The movie is beautiful and has several great supporting performances. Including Ronald Reagan (as a great drunk), Geraldine Fitzgerald and Bogie. The wonderful story flows and when you mix in Bette's great work, this movie shines. The beginning of the movie details young Judith's status as a socialite perfectly, you don't hate her like you could by today's standards. Then the dramatic diagnosis and medical drama leads directly into the healing of body and soul. The love story and friendships are portrayed to perfection. Bogie even becomes lovable, which shows how Judith as changed since falling in love. I would recommend this movie to everyone.
  • I've seen this movie three times (once in a theater) and it seems to get better with each viewing. There is no question that this is one of the best movies Bette Davis had made, with her skill evident in every scene she's in. With an able supporting cast, especially by Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Brent, and a fine Max Steiner score, movies do not get much better. I loved the scene where she orders "prognosis negative" in a restaurant just to let Brent and Fitzgerald know that she knows she's been lied to about her condition. It's just a wonderful movie.

    I was surprised that such a prestigious film would have a credit error. The end credits list Lottie Williams as playing Lucy, where in fact she plays Agatha. Lucy was played by Diane Bernard.
  • In a previous review of a Bette Davis film, I alluded to her amazing range; she can either play the bitch or she can play the martyr. In Dark Victory, she gets to do both. As Judith, she finds out that at the ripe age of 23 and at a very inconvenient time in her social calendar, that she has a fatal brain tumor. George Brent plays the doctor who diagnoses her, and of course, her love interest. Members of a fine supporting cast include a very young Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan. (Who hilariously plays a social playboy/boozehound.)

    This film is definitely a classic, and is a fun one to watch – it's worth it just to watch the scene in the restaurant when Bette orders a `Prognosis Negative' after she finds out that she is dying. Dark Victory is yet another piece of evidence that 1939 was the golden year of cinema.

    --Shel
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I can just picture theater patrons leaving this movie during it's original release, not a dry eye in the house; an endearing testimony to the strength of Bette Davis' portrayal of the young snooty socialite turned human over the course of the story. As Miss Judith Traherne, Davis exhibits a wide range of emotion in her role, helping establish her reputation as one of film's finest actresses.

    Along the way, Davis is supported by an unusually strong contingent of Warner contract players, most notably George Brent as the doctor turned husband, Frederick Steele. Established in a highly successful surgical career, Steele is continuously frustrated in his attempt to semi-retire to a life of research at his Vermont farm. Miss Judith is just his latest diversion, one that his professional reputation and personal responsibility will not allow to go without helping. During his association with Judith, he manages to fall in love, while creating the same intense and wonderful feelings in her. Where his nobility fails is in his attempt to keep Judith's true condition secret from her, in collaboration with Judith's best friend, Miss Ann (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Fitzgerald's performance in it's own way is almost as touching as Davis' own, as the loyal friend and confidante who must watch her best friend slowly fade toward an unhappy ending.

    Ronald Reagan appears a number of times throughout the film as a member of Davis' social circle, and whether by design or not, he never appears sober. Henry Travers, the diligent wing earning angel from "It's a Wonderful Life" appears as Miss Judith's family physician in a subdued role. And to be completely honest, my original interest in this film was in completing my collection of Humphrey Bogart movies; here he has minimal screen time as a horse trainer with an eye for Miss Judith who realizes that his station would never allow for such a match up. It's interesting to see Bogey near the end of the film in the obligatory trench coat for which he's well known.

    The film's ending is powerful and given added poignancy as Miss Judith plants a flower bulb after sending her husband off to an important medical gathering. With Judith's vision dimming, Miss Ann cannot contain her tears and is sent off by Miss Judith as well to remember happier times. As Judith stumbles up the stairs to her bedroom, the maid symbolically draws the curtain against the sunlight, while Judith says a final prayer, and it's over. Commence tears.

    To date, my viewing of Bette Davis films have been limited to her collaborations with Humphrey Bogart, but that's a total of six films, more than any other pairing with my favorite actor. Edward G. Robinson appeared with Bogey in five films, and one of them, "Kid Galahad" also featured Bette Davis, once again in a role showing many facets of her ability. Intrigued as I am with her performance in "Dark Victory", I'll be looking forward to more of her films.
  • "Dark Victory" features a superb performance by Bette Davis, portraying Judy Traherne, a socialite struggling to come to terms with terminal brain cancer, a diagnosis that ironically brings her the greatest joy of her life, as she falls in love with and marries the doctor who diagnosed her, also superbly played by George Brent.

    There's nothing really to dislike in this movie. The basic point is simple to figure out: whatever darkness you may face, make the best of it and live life to the fullest, because even in darkness there may be victory. The supporting cast is tremendous, particularly Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Judy's friend and assistant who helps her through this bewildering time of conflicting emotions. The movie is not exactly filled with suspense and there's no dramatic death scene, but the emotion is raw all the way through, and the sympathy the viewer feels for this couple who are so much in love but have so little time to enjoy it is very real.

    This is very well done, and well worth a look see. I would rate it as a 7/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Casey Robinson wrote at least four great vehicles for Bette Davis; Now, Voyager, The Old Maid, The Corn Is Green and this one and though it may be just coincidence that these were written and produced in the same six year period (1939-1945) that paralleled World War Two and represented the period when Davis was at the top of her game, it could just be that writer and actress struck creative sparks off each other. On paper much of this is risible, not least the wonderfully apt name Alec Hamm sported by Ronald Reagan, closely followed by Bogie's pathetic Irish accent and his classic line on being rejected by Davis 'is it because I'm just a stable-hand', okay, East Lynne it's not but it's certainly in the same ballpark. Henry Travers was more effective as Clarence, the tyro angel in It's A Wonderful Life, where he eventually did save Jimmy Stewart from that date with the Grim Reaper, this time around he can't replicate that trick for Bette Davis even though he's now a bona fide doctor and, as he never tires of repeating, the doctor who brought Judith Traherne (Davis) into the world. This is, let's face it, soap opera albeit luxury soap and if you can suspend your disbelief there's much to admire not least of course the bravura performance of Davis which is given honorable support by George Brent and Geraldine Fitzgerald. Like the man said, they don't make 'em like this anymore.
  • This movie is great. It lets you see how the great actress "Bette Davis" can really act with this performance. At first she is strong and forthright (the way we all remember her) but, then when she faces death turns very compassionate for others. She doesn't dwell on anything she lives every moment as if it was her last. You will see Humphrey Bogart in a supporting role as a horse trainer. Bette plays a 23 yr. old whose father died and mother lives far away and is never around. She lives it up with huge parties and going everywhere. She doesn't worry about anything and let's things wait to happen in years ahead. That all changes with a blink when she enjoys everything and does things she was putting to the side like love. With all that she experiences things she wishes she only had done before. The bottom line - she falls in love and experiences the real meaning of happiness to simply enjoy life. You'll love her performance and the others in the cast too because they all have a place there not just there like in other films for no reason. "Dark Victory" makes all of us want to triumph over life and this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The twenty-three years old wealthy sportswoman Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) has painful headaches and double-vision, and the family doctor, Dr. Parsons (Henry Travers), convinces her to go with her best friend Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) to a consultation with a famous specialist. After the physical examination, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) finds that Judy has a lethal glioma brain tumor, and he immediately operates her to withdraw the tumor. However, the result of the biopic examination indicates that she has less than six months of life, but Dr. Steele and Ann hides the diagnose from Judy. Meanwhile, Judy and Dr. Steele fall in love for each other, and they decide to get married and move to Vermont. But Judy finds the correspondence from the laboratory and very depressed, she starts to drink and have a promiscuous life. Later, she realizes that she should spend the last moments of her life with her love.

    "Dark Victory" is a wonderful sentimental movie with three nominations to the Oscar: Best Lead Actress (Beth Davies), Best Music Score (Max Steiner) and Best Picture (David Lewis). Although having an unpleasant theme, the message is beautiful and never corny. Bette Davis is amazing in the lead role, very well supported by Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Brent. Humphrey Bogart in beginning of career in the role of a horse whisperer, and the ham actor Ronald Reagan in the role of a playboy have a minor participation. Warner do Brasil only recently released this DVD in Brazil, in a Box with three other excellent movies of Bette Davies. Unfortunately, the Brazilian DVD has a great error in Chapter 18: the subtitles of the lyric of the song "Time for Tenderness" have the word "@ confirmar" (meaning "to confirm") on each line. I believe that who translated the song, wanted to confirm the translation, and sent the draft without deleting the markings to the DVD authoring. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "Vitória Amarga" ("Bitter Victory")
  • I had previously allowed my views of Bette Davis, the person, to taint my views of Ms. Davis, the actress. Hearing of incidences of petulant behavior, as well as having had frequent observations of her volcanic personality, I denied myself the privilege of seeing Ms. Davis on the screen. However, while flipping through the dial one evening, I came upon a movie partway through, starring Ms. Davis and George Brent, and decided to watch. Even as the movie had concluded, I had no idea of what I had just viewed. I knew only that I was deeply touched by Ms. Davis'. character and her heroic struggle to enjoy her last days in the face of great adversity. After seeing her remarkable performance in what I learned later was the picture Dark Victory, I can only say the talent of Ms. Davis is unsurpassed, and perhaps unequaled by any actress of her generation. The powerful screen presence and superb acting ability of Ms. Davis, literally bowled me over. Bravo!!
  • Long Island heiress Bette Davis (as Judith Traherne) suffers from headaches and vision problems, but doesn't want her partying, socialite lifestyle hampered by doctor's visits. However, after falling off her horse and down the stairway, Ms. Davis' family physician arranges for her to visit brain specialist George Brent (as Frederick Steele). Her self-described "reasonable quantity" of tobacco and alcohol does not seem to be a factor in Davis' declining health. Dr. Brent finds Davis in dire straits and operates on her brain almost immediately. The two fall in love, also...

    Davis seems to recover, but finds a file describing her condition as "prognosis negative." She asks, "What does prognosis mean?" and "What does negative mean?" Really...

    This film confirmed Davis as a box office favorite; she was listed in the annual top ten "Quigley Poll" for the first time, in sixth place. Davis' performance was in the running for year's best, behind "Academy Award" winner Vivien Leigh ("Gone with the Wind") and "New York Film Critics" runner-up Greta Garbo ("Ninotchka"). "Dark Victory" is a marvelous movie star performance vehicle, but less of a film. Davis receives great support from Brent and especially Geraldine Fitzgerald (as Ann King). Irish-accented Humphrey Bogart (as Michael O'Leary) is amusing.

    ******** Dark Victory (4/20/39) Edmund Goulding ~ Bette Davis, George Brent, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Humphrey Bogart
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