11 April 2006 | blanche-2
A blind man has his eyes opened
Arthur Kennedy is Larry, a man blinded in WW II battle in "Bright Victory," a 1951 film that also stars Peggy Dow, Julia Adams, James Edwards, Will Geer, Jim Backus, and Larry Keating. Kennedy plays a southern racist whose life plan of marrying his high school sweetheart (Adams) and joining her wealthy father's business comes into doubt when he is shot and his optic nerve shattered during combat.
The film takes the viewer through Larry's training with other blind soldiers as he learns to adjust to a sightless life. One of the men, Joe (Edwards) is black and is his best buddy until Larry makes a bigoted remark (and uses the n word for extra emphasis). A fellow soldier points out to him that from now on, he probably won't want to ask someone's race and religion before deciding if they pass muster. This sets Larry thinking. He meets a sympathetic young woman, Judy (Dow), who falls for him but has to let him go home to the life he has there. But when Larry returns to his family, he finds that because he's changed, the world around him has changed, too.
This looks to be a B movie but Kennedy received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and the acting in the film is A quality, as is the script and direction. Kennedy is excellent and does one thing, I believe intentionally, that is remarkable. At least to these ears, he has no southern accent in the beginning of the film. When he returns home, you start to hear a southern accent in his voice. Now, some might say that Kennedy's southern accent was in and out - I don't believe that was the case. He did what a lot of people with an 'acute ear' do - he picked up the accent of those around him. As a blind man, of course, his ear would even be more acute, and in several scenes, he is shown to have a unique "radar" ability for "feeling" when he is near a building, which is considered by the Army to be a unique gift not shared by many. It would then be in character for him to easily fall in and speak with the same intonation as the accents around him. Kennedy, of course, went on to have a strong career as a character actor (and receive more Oscar nominations) while one of the bit players in the film, Rock Hudson, who is fairly bad even with a couple of lines, hit the superstardom jackpot. Fortunately, Hudson improved greatly before being handed leads.
Julia Adams is lovely (and strongly resembles actress Connie Selleca) as Larry's frustrated girlfriend, and Dow is sympathetic as the girl left behind. After a few more movies, the very pretty Dow quit her film career to marry and subsequently raised five children. Will Geer, Larry Keating, and Jim Backus, three strong character actors, appear in this film as well.
"Bright Victory" is an excellent movie and well worth watching, particularly for the complicated personality created by Arthur Kennedy.