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Dark Victory

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  • Davis' portrayal of the lead character, Judith Traherne, was one of the most memorable in her screen history...
    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...

    ...more info
  • "I think I'll have a large order of prognosis negative!"
    Based on a play by George Emerson Brewer Jr. and Bertram Bloch, DARK VICTORY provided Bette Davis with one of her last great performances of the 1930s, capping off a banner decade that had seen her win Academy Awards for "Dangerous" and "Jezebel".

    In DARK VICTORY, Davis is millionaire heiress Judith Traherne, plagued with crippling headaches and eyesight problems that are later diagnosed as symptoms of an incurable brain cancer. Judy will eventually lose her vision altogether before peacefully slipping away, but until that day comes she'll spend the remainder of her life happily married, and surrounded by good friends. Davis provides a stirring portrait of courage under fire in this inspirational and moving romantic drama. In lesser hands the character of Judith would have come across as wildly melodramatic, but Davis cuts through the treacle and delivers a sympathetic yet practical performance.

    Davis is surrouded in DARK VICTORY by one of her strongest ensemble casts, including frequent co-star George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, and Geraldine Fitzgerald as steadfast best friend Ann. Warner contract players Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan can also be enjoyed in several scenes. In that legendary year of 1939, DARK VICTORY was unfortunately forgotten in the midst of "Gone with the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz", but has since gone on to demonstrate it's endurance as one of the great Bette Davis classics.

    The DVD of DARK VICTORY (newly-restored and remastered in a flawless digital print) also includes a Making-Of featurette "1939 - Tough Competition for Dark Victory", audio commentary with James Ursini and Paul Clinton, and the original trailer. (Single-sided, dual-layer disc)....more info
  • Lesbian humanism
    This, one of Bette's best films, was probably known in its day as a "woman's" picture...what is now known as a chick flick.

    However, it is structured in such a way as to show that Bette's Judith Traherne's moral growth is one that starts as a negotiable, but real, demand to be treated as an adult by her horrible mother, and to be allowed to get personal gratification.

    Of course, at the time it was made (a time to which US culture seems to be regressing) many families forced women, and some men, to forget about their own satisfaction using a moral code in which to do so was to be "selfish."

    But the movie goes on to show that Judith Traherne is unavoidably compassionate towards others and makes her later altruism flow out of her struggle for personal satisfaction.

    This is astonishingly intelligent for it is a dialectic. The "thesis" is the demand by Judith's mother that Bette sacrifice herself. The antithesis is the way that Bette says, up yours, Mom. The synthesis is that Bette is able to return to a new, and higher form of caring for others in the way she "adopts" a repressed and frightened girl.

    Of course, crude interpretations of identity politics aren't dialectical. They consist of non-negotiable, zero-sum and winner-take-all demands for "rights" in which the losers are expected to act like losers, and not fight back...as in the case of the Born to Lose "angry white male." In particular, lesbianism becomes in the social sense a kind of Bantustan, in which the privilege to walk down the street hand-in-hand is continually under threat, because it is assumed to deny heterosexuals a right not to be offended.

    The lesbianism in the film is of course quiet in its time and consists in Judith's denial that she "needs" a man (which was quite daring in its time.) Lesbian humanism is the denial that a person, usually a woman, should not have to implement power in the small and it points to the destruction it results.

    The film is almost enough to make me a lesbian. Unfortunately, and as Garrison Keillor has pointed out, to be a male lesbian is nearly an oxymoron. But, in view of the hatred for women that is on-tap in our society, perhaps Keillor is wrong, and their are very few male lesbians.

    "Humanism" is no longer a singular term because, of course, the immediately preceding generation confused sets of actual humans with all of humanity. Nonetheless it exists as an abstraction which is, I think, instantiated in any narrative of a struggle that is genuinely human, and made so by a dialectical refusal to stay only in personal gratification or self-sacrifice....more info

  • If you are ever in the need of a good cry...
    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....more info
    Davis performances don't get any better than her classic portrayal of Judy Traherne, the lively, irresponsible 23 year-old Long Island heiress who finds inner peace before her untimely death via a brain tumour. Because this classic film is quite possibly the most famous of all vintage tear-jerkers, it is best to leave out plot details so as not to ruin the experience for first-time viewers. Just know that this was Davis's favourite film because it contained the performance she was the most satisfied with. Granted, to modern day viewers, Bette's highly charged, kinetic energy - particularly in the early scenes - may appear eccentric, almost laughable, because it's the likes of which actors don't display nowadays......But keep watching.....Bette's metamorphasis into a fully contented, married woman with an inner glow about her is astounding to observe and you may later understand the underlying cleverness of Davis's contrasting moods. It's a vivid, multi-faceted performance which contains many elements of genuine human emotions: selfishness, hedonism, love, vulnerability, anger, self-pity, compassion & maturity thru inner peace. Very beneficial to the film is the character of Ann King, Judy's best friend and secretary. Not in the original play, director Edmund Goulding created her as a kind of Greek Chorus, so that Judith wouldn't have to complain about the inevitable. Geraldine Fitzgerald gives superb support: Davis always praised her Irish-born co-star (in her American debut) commenting in her memoirs that Ann was "so beautifully played by Fitsie". If ever a movie held the honour of selling more Kleenex than any other, it would have to take notes from this 1939 Bette Davis vehicle, because it's a 24K gold-plated Cadillac with few peers. The famed hyacinth planting scene - during which one feels an almost spiritual jolt - the pleading, sincere inquiry to her doctor husband George Brent - whom she sends away to a convention - "Have I been a good wife?", and the final fade-out - complete with a heavenly choir of Angels singing - still leaves viewers in helpless tears. Now, THAT'S acting!!...more info
  • Davis Victory (recommended)
    This is arguably the best performance by Bette Davis captured on film. She portrays an animated, agitated, and troubled spoiled socialite who falls in love with someone who is quite the opposite. The real victory involves the budding relationship that gradually tames her as the curtain closes.

    Movie quote: "I think I'll have a large order of prognosis negative!"...more info
  • Hilariously bad
    This is one movie that plays like a Carol Burnett sketch from start to finish. The climax, where Davis tries to hide her blindness from her husband, had me cramping up from laughing so hard. Enjoy!...more info
  • One of Bette's Finest, a True Vehicle for Her Genius
    Any real classic movie fan has seen Dark Victory at least once. Some of us have done so many times. Yes, it's a glossy, beautifully done, soapy story that gives us a young, vital, wealthy, doomed heroine (Ms. Davis) who must cope with a cruel sentence of early death. Yes, it's a good script well-played by a marvelous cast, well-directed by Edmund Goulding, etc., etc.

    But why is it still considered such a classic almost SEVENTY YEARS after its release (as this is written)? Other high-class soap operas have had their day and vanished from memory--and from lists of truly good films, if they were ever there to begin with.

    Not Dark Victory. And the reason for it, I am convinced, is the genius-level performance of Bette Davis, plain and simple.

    Okay, her Judith Traherne has all the standard Davis mannerisms (all of them in their absolute prime in the film, like the star herself)--the manic energy, the emotional wildness, the eloquent manner of her chain-smoking, the voice, the delivery. Such a character in such a movie shouldn't move us so many decades later if it's just a standard "star turn", now should it?

    But it does move us--emotionally, deeply.

    It is because Davis uses everything she's got to make this character not only a bit overwhelming at times, but very real. Her change of character when she truly understands what she is facing is beautifully, gracefully done and ultimately believable. She goes from wild, self-indulgent, uncaring, spoiled rich woman to someone who through her own tragedy has learned to care for and love others. Very dangerous, cliche-ridden territory for an actress, unless you are Bette Davis, who manages the change not only with emotional realness but intellectual believability as well!

    There is an undercurrent of restraint in this at-times flamboyant portrayal, and it is one that I believe Davis deliberately chose for this performance. In her final scene, when she must face her own death, it is with a truly courageous, understated acceptance which nonetheless fully shows her sadness at leaving life.

    How could anyone--even Bette Davis--do this and make it so real?

    The secret: She never lets her character feel sorry for herself. Rebel against her fate with characteristic self-indulgence, yes. Get angry, yes. But anyone who has seen this woman in her final moments knows that her sorrow (and quiet courage) at the inevitable end which is so close is absolutely devoid of self-pity, and it gives Judith Traherne a quality of magnificence, thanks to Davis.

    That is what makes it so heartbreakingly moving, so timeless, so deeply touching.

    That is the genius of Bette Davis in this, one of her greatest roles, one that she made great through her matchless talent.

    Pick up this title and see what I mean!...more info
  • Outstanding Bette Davis vehicle
    "Dark Victory" is atypical for a Hollywood movie made in 1939 [or for that matter, for one made today] because it deals with terminal illness and it doesn't have a happy ending. The medical profession back then was less honest about the subject. A common procedure was to assure the patient that they were doing fine, even when the prognosis was negative. This deceptive practice and other factors date the movie, but Bette Davis' stunning performance as Judith Traherne always has and always will define the movie. For that reason alone, it is still eminently watchable.

    Judith is a vivacious, carefree member of Long Island society. Her passions are parties, her friends and her horses. After being thrown from her favorite horse, she admits to her best friend, Ann [Geraldine Fitzgerald] that the cause of the accident was a sudden blurring of her vision. This, she admits, is not the first time she's had this problem. After much cajoling of the stubborn, frightened Judith, Ann gets her to a specialist, Dr. Frederick Steel [George Brent], who diagnosis her as having a rare illness. An operation, which is unsuccessful, ensues, but the truth is withheld from Judith. During all this, patient and doctor fall in love with each other. Both the illness and Steel's well intended but deceitful way of dealing with it led to serious complications.

    Fitzgerald is excellent as Ann, George Brent [a matinee idol in his time] is adequate, but Humphrey Bogart, whose stardom was sill several years away, is wasted as Michael, Judith's horse trainer. His Irish accent is not at all good. You'll hardly notice, though, because your thoughts and eyes will always be on Davis. She displays virtually every human emotion, seemingly without effort. One of her great scenes is the one in which Dr. Steele is examining her for the first time. Her voice is bright and gay as she makes light about her problem, but her eyes and hands are telling us something completely different - fear to the point of terror.

    Reams have been written about how difficult Davis was to work with. In "Dark Victory", one can see part of the reason. She was so gifted that finding someone who could successfully play opposite her must have been a nearly impossible task. She made movies in which, I suspect, she was so angry and/or depressed that, consciously or not, she played a parody of herself. These movies created Davis the caricature. "Dark Victory" is not one of them. Here, Davis brilliantly plays an ordinary woman dealing with her own mortality. Highly recommended for this reason alone....more info

  • Bette Davis in her most fondly remembered role
    Bette Davis delivered one of her most emotionally taxing performances in this classic weepie from Warner Bros which appeared in Hollywood's golden year of 1939 when more memorable films were produced than in any other year.

    The heroine of the piece, flighty heiress Judith Traherne who is doomed by the appearance of a brain tumour just as she finds some meaning in her superficial life is one of the great performances by Davis and is the role which perhaps she is still most fondly remembered for. Indeed the whole film really has passed into movie folklore as a supreme example of emotional drama played to perfection. Up against the gigantic "Gone With The Wind" Davis had little hope of carrying off the 1939 Best Actress Oscar for which she was nominated for thi srole but even that disappointment is minor when one remembers that the film was a stunning success upon release and has lived on over the decades since as a classic.

    "Who wants to see a dame going blind?" was apparently Jack Warner's terse remark when first approached about producing this story which already had been passed around from studio to studio since appearing as a stage play back in the mid 1930's starring Tallulah Bankhead. Garbo had been an earlier possibilty for the role however she had turned it down as too depressing. Davis had no such qualms and attacked the role with gusto and delivered a heartfelt and unsurpassed performance that ranks among her best. It is still a wonderful viewing experience to witness Judith's journey from flighty party girl to a woman in love who learns trust for the first time in her life through the love of her doctor, to the inevitable conclusion of the story. It really is an amazing performance and a brave one at that time for Bette Davis who was never shy of taking risks in her career.

    Ably supporting Bette in this tragic tale is frequent costar and supporter George Brent in the role of her doctor husband Frederick Steele. Brent had a hard time on his hands playing against the Davis power house in such a role but to his credit he delivers a performance of controlled restraint and caring which contrasts well with Davis's flamboyant playing. Of special merit is the beautiful performance delivered by the lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald as Judith's secretary and devoted friend Anne. Hers is a stunning performance of restrained underplaying and quiet strength and her scenes with Davis work very well. The two actresses apparently got on well during this production and became life long friends and that chemistry is evident on screen and makes for many great acting moments. The famous Hyacinth planting scene near the film's climax is justly famous and the playing of Davis and Fitzgerald here is beautifully modulated to create the maximum effect. Indeed this scene is the emotional climax of the film and is guaranteed to bring tears to even the most critical viewer. Despite the bad choice of casting Humphrey Bogart as an Irish stable hand and a young Ronald Reagan as a drunken playboy all the supporting parts are carefully chosen to create the right supporting strength to Davis's central performance.

    For a beautifully played emotional drama teamed with a haunting musical score "Dark Victory" is unsurpassed. It is a unique viewing experience preserving as it does on film one of the greatest performances of the 1930's by an actress and possibly the finest performance by Bette Davis during her illustrious career. A definite four hankerchief viewing experience....more info

  • Davis at her best
    I have seen many wonderful films in my life, but none so rich as this one. Titanic doesn't even begin to compare to this wonderful movie. If you haven't seen it, don't bother to rent it, just buy it. It will be one of your better purchases...more info
  • Moving
    Wonderful, moving film. Not Bogie's best, but still decent. One of Davis' best performances. ...more info
  • Reacquaint yourself with an old classic that feels anything but old
    There's not much left to say about "Dark Victory", so I'll only add that the film's sentiment and tears come not only as a result of the tragedy we're seeing onscreen, but the frequent examples of characters reaching out to help each other, to give thanks to one another, and other expressions of humanity. I always liked that about this movie, that it chokes us up not just over the... well, darker things going on, but also because of how it very effectively shows us humanity at its best. Recently watching the movie again, I was reminded of how great it is.

    Warner Home Video's DVD of "Dark Victory" features pristine picture and sound, and a nice collection of interesting, illuminating extra features....more info
  • Great Classic, Sorry DVD!
    When you see grade z movies being issued with beautiful transfers and 1 to 2 extra discs of extras, you would think one of the great screen classics would receive similar respect. No way. I was appalled by the dismal, speckled, grainy pictute you receive on this lousy DVD. "Dark Victory" was among the five pictures in l939 nominated by the Academy Award as The Best. Not only was it nominated for best musical score by the great Max Steiner, but its luscious black and white photography was also up for Best of the Year. My VHS tape of this classic shows a beautiful black and white beauty. Whoever was responsible for approving this truly dismal disc of one of Hollywood's greatest classics should be fired. And oh yeah, as for great extras, you do actually get one tiny little preview. This shows you what type of respect the creators of this DVD had for this masterpiece, starring America's greatest movie actress!...more info
  • a Bette Davis classic
    Dark Victory remains one of the greatest films of the entire twentieth century; and people are correct to note that it's not the most typical script from 1939: It does deal with brain cancer and the devastating emotional toll it takes on patients, their loved ones and friends. The acting is very convincing and the plot moves along at an excellent pace. The cinematography is excellent, too.

    When the action starts, we quickly meet the spoiled rotten daughter of a late business tycoon; her name is Judith Traherne (Bette Davis). Judith lives for parties, smoking and horse races; and I certainly didn't get the impression that there was any depth whatsoever to her personality. She lives in her late father's mansion on New York's Long Island with her best friend Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) and a few servants including Martha (Virginia Brissac). Judith's typical day is to play bridge and go to the theater--but only when she's in-between throwing parties. She has also recently hired a talented man named Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart) to manage her horses.

    Unfortunately, Judith's health is not the best. For quite some while she's been having headaches and her vision is sporadically blurred. Judith resists going to a doctor--she won't even talk to the family doctor, Dr. Parsons (Henry Travers). However, after a few really bad falls she eventually consents to just chat with a brain specialist, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent). Dr. Steele decides to operate and this terrifies Judith; but she knows she has no choice except to have the operation. After the operation many doctors consult with Dr. Steele--and they all agree with him: Judith has just several months to live. They cannot cure the brain tumor nor can they remove all of it.

    Initially Judith is lead to believe that she will live normally without any problems at all. Her remarkably sweet gratitude to Frederick Steele quickly turns to love; and he feels the same way about her. Judith behaves more warmly toward other people, too. Frederick tells Judith's friend Ann and the others that Judith must not know she's going to die (a strategy that's highly debatable) and for a while things go fairly well although Frederick and Ann are feeling the strain of pretending in front of Judith that all is well.

    Will Judith find out that her illness is terminal? If she does, how will she find out and will she and Frederick Steele continue their romance? What about Michael O'Leary, the stable manager--when he declares his own love for Judith, will this complicate things? How do Ann and Frederick manage to pretend in front of Judith that everything is all right? No spoilers here, folks--watch the movie and find out!

    The DVD extras include an audio commentary with James Ursini and Paul Clinton; and there is also a "making of" featurette that I enjoyed. We get the original trailer for the film, too. The quality of the print is excellent.

    Dark Victory showcases a tour de force performance by Bette Davis; and the other actors really shine in this motion picture. Humphrey Bogart's performance is very good. Indeed, Bogart should get credit for doing a pretty good Irish accent in this film. Look for Ronald Reagan in a relatively small part as a guy who routinely hangs out at Judith's home to party and drink himself silly, too.

    I highly recommend this film for fans of classic movies and people who like Bette Davis will definitely want this movie in their collections.
    ...more info
  • One of her most lovely
    Bette looks gorgeous and will make you cry and smile. This film is great. I had no idea what all the fuss about her was til I saw this film. She is in the height of her beauty in this picture. I loved her in All About Eve and if you liked that film, you will like this one. It is different but will attract the same audience. I do not like what is today's Chick Flick, older films tried harder to appeal to men too. And this should....more info
  • Powerful Acting
    Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) lives a life of luxury. She has great friends like Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald), a smitten gentleman friend (Ronald Reagan), and a bevy of horses and her own stablehand (Humphrey Bogart). That all changed when her eyesight begins to fail. Reluctantly, she goes to a doctor (George Brent) and is told that she must undergo and opperation. She believes it has been a success, but Dr. Steele knows that she has a short time to live. The problem is, he has fallen in love with her, so in order to protect her, he decides to let her believe everything is okay.

    The acting in this film is superb. Davis constantly performs and always knows how to draw emotion from the audience. Fitzerald is also remarkable, a little known talent. There are several times when Max Steiner's music and the dramatic events turn the film into a high class melodrama, but the emotional intensity makes it seem more realistic than campy....more info
  • Dark Victory: Bette Sees With Blinding Eyes
    Bette Davis's career was built on two types of roles: the 'serious' actress of films like THE PETRIFIED FOREST, where she tends to radiate emotion within a tightly focused circumference and that of the widely popular but less traditional melodramatic sort where she skips back and forth between schitzophrenic outbursts of emotion, often tossing her memorable lines out at breakneck speed. Bette Davis, as the doomed Judy Traherne of DARK VICTORY, is exactly the sort of heroine that Warner Brothers and America came to view as the quintessential groundbreaker of the pre-Second World War era. In films of this latter type, for her to be effective, she did not need nor want a strong male lead. A woman capable of lighting up a room merely with the fire of her eyes or the puff of a cigarette cannot share center stage with an equally formidable male presence. In DARK VICTORY, George Brent plays doctor Frederick Steele with the total blandness that has come to characterize his screen persona. When Miss Davis is first seen, she is the typical party girl, loud but in an engaging way. She is self-confident, affluent, and possessed of many suitors, two of whom include a pair of sadly miscast swains, Humphrey Bogart, with a lamentably phony Irish brogue, and a callow Ronald Reagan, who irritates with his own bland inebriety. As soon as she complains of a headache, the Warner Brothers curse sets in: all headache victims are soon to die of a wasting disease. Enter George Brent as her physician. In a strange sense, he seems the perfect choice as the concerned doctor; he is serious, competent, and confident. However, his acting is useful only insofar as it allows Davis to show an amazing range of mood swings by using him as an emotionally padded echo chamber that rather than reflecting her own feelings, merely absorbs them, leaving her with no one with whom to battle. Her scenes with Brent are touching, perhaps because she knows that her looming death can be spent with a man who asks no more of her than she can give. Geraldine Fitzgerald as her friend Anne grows in stature through the film, finally being seen as the emotional prop that Davis needs but fears to ask for from her husband-physician. A good melodrama is not afraid to tug at the heart strings and few films do this as well as the final scene of the closing wall of darkness, first in Davis's garden, then in her bedroom. The victory that Bette Davis achieves is seen not as darkness triumphant but as darkness subservient to the iron will of a woman who yet can control her life, even to its ending....more info
  • Classic Betty Davis,is all one has to say about Dark Victory
    If you want to experience a truely classic love story,this is the one to start with. It has all the elements that have long been lost in movies. Betty Davis is a strong woman lost amist an empty life of too much,encountering a challange she is not prepared to meet,enter the gentle man who captures her heart and makes her realize she can face her challange and be happy with the love they share for all too short a time. Grab the box of kleenex for this one!...more info
  • "I think I'll have a large order of...prognosis negative!"
    Long Island socialite Judith Traherne, the central protagonist in Dark Victory is going to face certain death. She has a crippling and degenerative brain disease that will eventually cause her to go blind and then die. This "prognosis negative" may not seem like the most optimistic subject matter for a movie, but under the sensitive direction of Edmund Goulding, Dark Victory takes on a shocking resonance and it's messages about death and dying are no doubt as timeless and probably just as significant today.

    Dark Victory is an embarrassment of riches, an unashamedly tearful melodrama that features an absolutely electrifying, compelling, tour de force, tear-jerking performance from Bette Davis as Judith Traherne. Davis is in top form here, playing the doomed socialite with a neurotic, disturbed, and formidable intensity; she encapsulates the screen being as redoubtable as ever, with Judith insisting on her dignity even as a grave illness she seems to have beaten returns with an unbeatable vengeance.

    Plagued by eye trouble, severe headaches, and a numbness in her arm, Judith is encouraged to meet with renowned doctor and brain surgeon Frederick Steele (George Brent). Judith knows deep down that something is terribly wrong, but she's a feisty strong-willed young woman who believes in just getting on with life. Consequently, she has slipped into a state of perpetual denial. Once Dr. Steele forces her to face the truth about her illness, Judith begins to fall in love with the handsome and dedicated doctor, admiring his affable and sensitive ways.

    Surgery is obviously the only option, and at first, things seem to go well, but her crippling disease eventually comes back to haunt her and she's given only months to live. Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald), Judith's secretary and best friend, conspires with Frederick to keep the seriousness of Judith's her illness from her. They both do it, not out of spite or selfishness, but out of a gesture of love, and a desire to see Judith happy in her remaining months.

    Judith gravitates between a whimsical carefree attitude towards her plight and a kind of stoic concern that things will be eventually work out all right for her. She friskily wrangles with her beloved doggies while still in bed, then bounces into the day in her silk pantsuit pajamas, all the while exchanging familiar niceties. It isn't until she learns the deadly ramifications of her illness that she starts to go off the rails, boozing with the playboys, smoking too many cigarettes, and soliciting the attentions of a smitten proletarian stable hand (Humphrey Bogart).

    Dark Victory, for all it's foreboding and depressing themes, is actually quite uplifting and is also deftly paced and smartly energetic. Judith gets a new lease on life when she falls in love with Frederick and even though certain death draws near, nothing can stop her from continuing her savvy business deals, keeping prospective suitor Ronald Reagan on drunken hand, and leaping atop a galloping steed. Mawkish sentimentality, the hairpin turns of the plot, and even the not-so-subtle changes of heart by the central characters, never bog down the film or make the story too heavy-handed and overly maudlin.

    Dark Victory ended up being one of Bette's biggest box office hits, and one can easily see why. This is a towering and commanding performance of unabashed melodrama and one of the most definitive pictures of her long and distinguished career. You never quite get used to seeing Bette this way, and you wish she'd been given even more chances to shine and play such a complex, intricate, and nuanced character as Judith Traherne. Mike Leonard July 05.
    ...more info
  • Wonderful performances rise above the soapiness
    "Dark Victory" stars the legendary Bette Davis as wealthy socialite Judith Traherne. She leads a life of non-stop fun and partying until a life-threatening disease begins to affect her. The supporting cast includes George Brent as surgeon Frederick Steele and Humphrey Bogart as Judith's horse trainer.

    The film has a "soap opera" feeling throughout, and I found some of the plot elements to be hard to believe. But aside from those flaws, this is one classic film that is still compelling and entertaining. Davis is the center of the film, and her performance is wonderful. She brings fire and strength, as well as vulnerability and serenity, to this memorable character. The supporting cast is up to the high standard set by Davis. It's particularly fun to see a young Ronald Reagan as one of Judith's party set. Unfortunately, Bogart's character seems to be neglected by the time the film is over.

    The opulent set and costume design make the film a real pleasure to watch, and are superbly enhanced by the film's glorious black-and-white cinematography. Max Steiner's appropriately melodramatic musical score also fits well into the mix. If you love classic movies, I recommend this film highly....more info

    Bette Davis once said that her role in Dark Victory, Judith Traherne, was closer to her in personality than just about any other character she had ever played. I doubt this knowing what I have learned and read about Davis and the controlling woman she was. However, this famous film, for which she was expected to win the 1939 Best Actress Academy Award until Scarlett O'Hara came along, contains an uneven performance by Davis. In the beginning her rapid fire speech and distracting mannerisms, her constant wringing of her hands and neck, her body movements (which director William Wyler could have controlled had he directed this film)mar her performance which brings the picture down a couple of notches. The story is nothing more than mere soap, but its good soap thanks to fine production values, an intelligent script and a brilliant musical score by Max Steiner. Davis' mannerisms are considerably toned down by the end of the picture and the ending is poignantly touching. But, because of her uneven performance, I have to say that this movie, while good, is not Davis' best. The kudos here go to the production values and Geraldine Fitzgerald's performance as Ann, Davis' best friend. The DVD transfer is excellent and there is a trailer included but nothing else. The audio is fine. This picture was nominated for best picture of 1939 in a year when more quality films were released. If you want the best Bette Davis film of 1939 I suggest you try "The Old Maid" in which she gives a performance that, in my opinion, merited the Oscar nomination she received for Dark Victory. "The Old Maid" also has the distinction of being the biggest box office success of any Davis picture and is often overlooked. I'm waiting for it to come out on DVD. "Dark Victory" though, by its own merits is a fine film and will disappoint none of Davis' admirers. ...more info
  • A Big Helping of Prognosis Negative
    Dark Victory is classic Bette Davis. I can't believe this tendency to call everything dated. That's like saying "David Copperfield" is dated. A great film or any other work of art is a treasure forever. They couldn't get this right today; it's 24-karat fun. Melodramatic schmaltz is transformed into grand -- and moving-- entertainment by the divine Davis, frenetic mannerisms (note the clenching hands), flashing eyes and halting speech patterns notwithstanding. Every minute Davis is onscreen, our eyes are kept riveted to her, resulting in, as Pauline Kael aptly put it, shameless entertainment. Class, nobility and movie stars of the caliber of Davis are sadly missing from films today.

    Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy, fast-living Long Island socialite, and here she is young and rather attractive with chic clothes and a hairstyle that would be popular in the 1940's. When she tells best friend Ann (Geraldine Fitzgerald) that she is having headaches and vision problems, Ann whisks her away to a specialist Frederick Steel (George Brent) where it is discovered that she has a brain disorder requiring surgery. Brent is as wooden as my favorite B actor, Lon Chaney, Jr., but it doesn't matter. The movie belongs to powerhouse Davis. Witness her so full of life! so gay! so young! as she believes her operation has been a success, while best friend, doctor and the entire audience know she "doesn't stand a chance." When Davis finds out the truth and confronts Ann and Steel (now her boyfriend) in a restaurant with their duplicity by ordering a "big helping of prognosis negative," sparks fly. It's all pure, delicious fun and yes, kitsch. But grand entertainment of the first order!

    Humphrey Bogart appears as an Irish stable hand with a terrible accent and Ronald Reagan has a minor role as one of Judith's "chums" or as she puts it, "the kids." Davis is in a class by herself in film history. Highly recommended!
    ...more info
  • Prototype Davis
    In 1939, Bette Davis completed 4 masterful films and consolidated her stardom for the rest fo her life. "Dark Victory" was possibly her favourite film of all and she gives a great performance. She plays a reckless Long Island socialite who develops a brain tumour, has an operation and falls in love with her doctor. If it sounds like soap opera, it is, but that does not take into account Davis's skill. Her role is a tour de force. For those who know the older Davis, in the early scenes, she may seem familiarly mannered but as the film progresses, she underacts superbly. Accordingly, "Dark Victory" may be the best demonstration of the sheer range of her talent. There is one particularly memorable scene when she sings along to the song "Time for Tenderness" in a nightclub. Watch, in awe.

    George Brent plays the doctor and his stolid presence is a suitable counterpoint to Davis. They had an affair during the filming and project great warmth. Once you get over the shock of seeing Humphrey Bogart as a stable hand with an Irish brogue, he is actually good and handles a pivotal and difficult scene with Davis very well. Geraldine Fitzgerald made her Hollywood debut here playing Davis's best friend. Her role is essential to the credibility of the drama because she reflects audience reaction to the tragedy and provides the emotional reactions which Davis suppresses. It helps Davis's performance immeasurably. Fitzgerald also recorded that Davis was a generous star who helped her adjust to the new environment.

    While the film shows high production values, there are some really poor process shots, an obvious use of a double in the riding scenes and far too many sappy close ups of Fitzgerald. Since most of Fitzgerald's lines border on pure soap, the close ups really detract from her performance.

    The print of the film has been restored and is good but the commentary is very poor. The two commentators chat endlessly about the plot development and what is blindingly obvious about what is happening on the screen - hopeless. They even manage to include comments about that overanalysed rivalry between Joan Crawford and Davis. That could be summed up by "Crawford wanted to be Davis and Davis could not have cared less" - end of discussion. Who cares and what relevance does it have to viewing "Dark Victory"? There are also a number of errors with reference to Davis's career and other details. The much shorter commentary from Rudy Behlmer and others is far superior.

    The DVD is best value if purchased as part of the Davis Collection Volume One....more info
  • The Debutante Meets the Brain Surgeon
    There is a phone call at 5:30am. There is an offer to buy a colt. Miss Judith drives fast. She is a wealthy heiress who is a horse breeder; she resents their hired help Michael the trainer. There is talk about "breeding" [a code word for inherited wealth]. Judith discovers a problem with that colt. She has other problems from living fast, a gay manic behavior. Or is there something wrong with her? There is warning: "the brain surgery was a success but the patient died". Nobody knows why cysts and tumors occur. What caused that riding accident? Judith Traherne meets Dr. Steele, who notices something. Judith has a problem in lighting her cigarette. Could it be an optic nerve? Does the light hurt her eyes? Is her memory failing? Dr. Steele inspects her eyes, and does some tests. It is glioma, an operation is necessary.

    Judith is a difficult patient. "I don't care about anything." The laboratory tells Judith's future. The doctors don't want to tell her that she has about 10 months to live. Back at home life goes on. Ann learns the truth from Dr. Steele. "She must never know." Is there an emotional bond? Will that complicate their relationship? Judith has plans for the future. But she finds a letter about her condition. "Prognosis negative." The truth affects he behavior. "Oh, Give Me Time." Judith drinks more and more. She rode to show the gentry she has what it takes. Judith talks to Michael and learns something. Will there be a change for Judith and Dr. Steele? Can they find happiness in Vermont? Will Dr. Steele find a cure? Or will there be darkness while the sun shines? Will the story be built up in order to crash down?

    What was the appeal of this story? To reassure people that the very rich also suffer from sickness and death like the rest of us? Most Hollywood films have a happy ending. Could it symbolize the coming war in Europe? Or just an expose of the empty lives of the idle rich?
    ...more info
  • One of Bette Davis' greatest performances
    "Dark Victory" is atypical for a Hollywood movie made in 1939 [or for that matter, for one made today] because it deals with terminal illness and it doesn't have a happy ending. The medical profession back then was less honest about the subject. A common procedure was to assure the patient that they were doing fine, even when the prognosis was negative. This deceptive practice and other factors date the movie, but Bette Davis' stunning performance as Judith Traherne always has and always will define the movie. For that reason alone, it is still eminently watchable.

    Judith is a vivacious, carefree member of Long Island society. Her passions are parties, her friends and her horses. After being thrown from her favorite horse, she admits to her best friend, Ann [Geraldine Fitzgerald] that the cause of the accident was a sudden blurring of her vision. This, she admits, is not the first time she's had this problem. After much cajoling of the stubborn, frightened Judith, Ann gets her to a specialist, Dr. Frederick Steel [George Brent], who diagnosis her as having a rare illness. An operation, which is unsuccessful, ensues, but the truth is withheld from Judith. During all this, patient and doctor fall in love with each other. Both the illness and Steel's well intended but deceitful way of dealing with it led to serious complications.

    Fitzgerald is excellent as Ann, George Brent [a matinee idol in his time] is adequate, but Humphrey Bogart, whose stardom was sill several years away, is wasted as Michael, Judith's horse trainer. His Irish accent is not at all good. You'll hardly notice, though, because your thoughts and eyes will always be on Davis. She displays virtually every human emotion, seemingly without effort. One of her great scenes is the one in which Dr. Steele is examining her for the first time. Her voice is bright and gay as she makes light about her problem, but her eyes and hands are telling us something completely different - fear to the point of terror.

    Reams have been written about how difficult Davis was to work with. In "Dark Victory", one can see part of the reason. She was so gifted that finding someone who could successfully play opposite her must have been a nearly impossible task. She made movies in which, I suspect, she was so angry and/or depressed that, consciously or not, she played a parody of herself. These movies created Davis the caricature. "Dark Victory" is not one of them. Here, Davis brilliantly plays an ordinary woman dealing with her own mortality. Highly recommended for this reason alone....more info

  • Marvelous Melodrama
    Tour de force camp fest for Bette Davis and her legions of fans. Almost every cliche that has become fodder for Davis impersonators (from Carol Burnett to Charles Pierce) are in this one...the swagger, the clipped speech, the cigarette holder and chronic/constant puffing, the one-line jabs and popping eyes. This one is elevated from mere melodrama by an admirable supporting cast and top notch production values. But if the genre isn't your cuppa, it will be a long 104 minutes.

    This DVD print is wonderful. Crystal clear...looks and sounds terrific and the real reason to include this one in your library of classics. The commentary track, unfortunately, is virtually worthless..the two film afficianadoes offer little more than their own ooh'ing and aah'ing. Better off calling it an "opinion" track. ...more info
  • "I think I'll have a large order of prognosis negative!"
    You can see why this was Bette Davis's favorite film she did for Warner's: as a impetuous Long Island socialite dying from a brain tumor, she gets to run a real gamut of emotional states, from defensive nerviness to terror to giddy elation to fury and finally to the kind of noble self-sacrificing glamor Davis adored. And she IS splendid in the part--the film is worth seeing if only as a kind of astonishing catalogue of her techniques and styles (and she was probably the single most gifted star of the studio period). But this melodrama just isn't up to the standards of some of her later Warner's work, like THE LETTER and NOW, VOYAGER. The other actors, while competent, aren't even on the same planet as Davis in terms of their ability, and the script lets them all down. There's a subplot involving Humphrey Bogart as Davis's stablegroom--!--from Ireland--!!!--that goes nowhere, and the silly plot mechanisms of how Davis's rumor works (after her surgery, it is guaranteed to kill her but without any pain, and signalled only by a sudden dimming of vision that allows for some very maudlin final moments) are pretty laughable. But it's all worth it to see her great drunk scene singing along with a nightclub chanteuse when she learns she's doomed--the final extended close-up in this scene shows Davis at her most remarable....more info
    1939 was a very good year for Bette Davis in Hollywood and this was ONE of the products she put out that year. It was a hit and you can see why. How people must have wept when seeing this at the time. There's no need to disect this movie. It's a true classic and beautifully acted by Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald as her friend. Bogie's in it too as a stablehand(!) and noneother than Ronald Reagan in a nothing part shows up once or twice. The male lead (stalwart leading man George Brent as the doctor) is stiff as a board but who cares? You're not watching him anyway! It's Davis' show all the way. The plot of a swinging playgirl who finds she has a brain tumor is pure soap deluxe and we love it...all the way to the teary finale. You watch this and you know why Davis was who she was at the time in Hollywood. There was and never will be anyone like her. Top Grade entertainment....more info
  • "That's our victory, our victory over the dark."
    Bette Davis is a young, rich Long Island socialite, part of the horsey crowd, who develops a brain tumor and is given 10 months to live. After an unsuccessful operation she thinks she's well, but is kept in the dark. She and her doctor (George Brent) fall in love, plan to marry, but then she stumbles upon the truth about her condition. She is furious at Brent for not telling her, then begins boozing before finally coming to her senses. She and Brent marry and move to Vermont where he can do research and she can become Mrs. Saturday Evening Post housewife. She dies, of course, and the last 15 minutes of the picture must have thoroughly flooded out the theatres with tears. Davis is in her set role here (the role she was best in): the selfish woman who is transformed into the self-sacrificing heroine, though it's really laid on thick. Ronald Reagan has a bit part as a souse, and Humphrey Bogart plays a stablehand with a terrible Irish brogue (he seems really miscast) - it's also the only movie I can remember in which Bogie plays a modern character and doesn't smoke. Also memorable in a funny way is the pointy little hat Davis wears throughout much of the picture to cover up her operation. Most of the movie is fairly obvious, and all is played for affect; but Davis gives it her nervous energy all. Worth a watch....more info
  • Davis tour de force performance
    Dark Victory is a star vehicle and the main reason for anyone watching it today is to see how a bone fide star -in this case Bette Davis -can transform routine material into something worth watching .
    She plays a headstrong and impulsive socialite who is stricken by a brain tumour .An operation seems initially to have solved the problem but in the event provides only temporary respite .After first rebelling aginst her fate she comes to terms with the condition ,marries her doctor ,played by George Brent and resolves to meet the end with courage and dignity and grace .
    In her early ,pre-diagnosis scenes Davis is edgy ,displaying bravura ;as illness comes on she develops an inner serenity and in the scene where her illness becomes fatal she is moving and dignified .This is the star system and star playing at its best ,transforming essentially soap-operish material into something powerful and life affirming
    The rest of the cast are overshadowed ;Brent is wooden and Humphrey Bogart miscast as an Irish racehorse trainer complete with unconvincing accent .Ronald Reagan appears as a socialite friend and comes and goes without leaving any real impression but there is a touching performance from Geraldine Fitzgibbon in the usually thankless role of heroine's best friend .

    Unobtrusive but skilled direction from Edmund Goulding helps as much as a cloying score from the normally reliable Max Steiner hinders but Davis is unstoppable and she makes the movie worth your time spent watching it ...more info
  • all eyes on Davis
    Dark Victory is Bette Davis's show. She makes the movie worth watching. Her performance is so mesmerizing that sometimes it even distracts the viewer from the actual character she's playing; you're busy watching all the nuances of her acting while forgetting about everything else.

    Davis plays Judith Traherne, a carefree and vivacious young heiress. She lives on an estate with her best friend, Anne (Geraldine Fitzgerald), and employs a stable hand named Michael (Humphrey Bogart) to look after her horses. Yet even at the start of the movie there are signs of trouble, such as headaches and double vision. Though Judith doesn't want to think about these symptoms or let them dictate her life, she's eventually persuaded to see a specialist, Dr. Steele (George Brent).

    Davis plays Judith in a clever, vibrant, strong-willed way, and the performance doesn't feel cloying or melodramatic. Geraldine Fitzgerald also does well as the best friend, Anne. Though it's not a dazzling role, Fitzgerald still asserts her presence on the screen and conveys strong emotion without excessive displays or hysterics.

    Compared to Davis and Fitzgerald, the male actors in the movie just don't measure up. As Dr. Steele, Brent is really bland; he's not compelling as a romantic lead or as a brilliant doctor and scientist. As the stable hand, Humphrey Bogart made me laugh; he didn't look at all like he was enjoying himself, and his acting and accent were stilted. Still, it was fun to see him in a role that came before his more famous and talented portrayals of Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Fred C. Dobbs. Lastly, there's Ronald Reagan (the first time I ever saw him in a movie!) He doesn't do much - he plays a smiling young socialite who saunters around with a drink in his hand; it was funny seeing him like this, young and silly.

    Dark Victory is all about Bette Davis, who puts in a terrific performance and works well with the moving storyline of a young woman trying to get the most out of life before her imminent death.

    ...more info
  • Prognosis Positive For Davis' Fans
    It seems Bette Davis' character is having splitting headaches and double vision, and long before her character figures it out, the audience knows what's happening and where the story is going. Yet as morbid as a story about a brain tumour should be, this film isn't. In fact, it gets stronger as it goes along, with a very moving ending that ranks up there with the best. I found some of the dialogue to be heavy handed, and the pacing of the film isn't the best. But the film succeeds in spite of that. Of course, much of the film's success belongs to Davis, who plays the character's crisis full throttle, from party girl to bitter victim to radiant fighter. George Brent, as the doctor who tries to save her and falls in love with her, is ... well ... George Brent. Never much of an actor, Brent probably gives one of his strongest performances here, although that is hardly a compliment. Geraldine Fitzgerald as secretary and best friend comes off very well, while Ronald Reagan and especially Humphrey Bogart seem out of place and uncomfortable. Fans of Davis and melodrama will definitely want to catch this one, and even if this type of story isn't what you like, there's no denying the power of the lead performance or the impact of the final ten minutes....more info
    Bette Davis is outstanding as Judy Traherne, a Long Island rich girl with a fatal brain tumor. For a time Judy believes that she's been cured, a myth supported by her doctor (George Brent)who is starting to fall in love with her. Cameos by Ronald Reagan and Humphrey Bogart are welcomed inclusions that enhance the film's dramatic appeal.
    Unfortunately, Warner acquired this title from a tired, worn print in the MGM library. The print is full of grain, chips, scratches, inconsistant shadow and contrast delineation and digital grit. There are several occasions where the entire image within the frame wobbles up and down, due to worn out sprocket holes. The visual experience during such instances is akin to riding a canoe through choppy seas. The audio is strident and scratchy. Overall this is a disappointing visual experience and one that Warner needs to rectify soon, before we lose this great classic forever to the ravages of time....more info
  • Dark Victory
    Based on Casey Robinson's stage drama, which starred Tallulah Bankhead, this Oscar-nominated weepie about a dying socialite trying to find happiness in the remaining months of her life scored with audiences in 1939. It's not hard to see why: the luminous Davis is superb, convincingly transforming herself from a bossy, devil-may-care horse breeder into a down-to-earth, spiritually humble human being. Humphrey Bogart does a sprightly turn as an Irish stable hand (yes, it's true), and watch for Ronald Reagan, who's terrific as Judith's suitor, Alec Hamin. If you're in the mood for a good cry, "Dark Victory" is your ticket to tearful bliss....more info
  • prognosis ..negative
    Bueno..que podre decir de Dark victory...un excelente melodrama....con una actuaciʫn de Bette Davis..sorprendente...como puede decir tanto..sin pronunciar palabra alguna.. solo con su mirada....vemos a un joven Bogart...y a una Geraldine Fitzgerald..fascinante..es una pelicula que te emociona..y te toca el lado mas sensible de tu alma....y nos muestra la valentia de esta ni?a rica que al final de todo..aprendio a vivir

    saludos...more info
  • Excellent Movie starring Bette Davis
    One who enjoys real acting talent will love this movie. Bette Davis shines as a woman who is goign to go blind and struggling with the remaining days of her life. They don't make movies like this anymore watch it and enjoy!...more info


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