Dark Victory

Last updated
Dark Victory
Dark movieposter.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed by Edmund Goulding
Produced by David Lewis
Written by Casey Robinson
Based on Dark Victory
1934 play
by George Emerson Brewer, Jr.
Bertram Bloch
Starring Bette Davis
George Brent
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Humphrey Bogart
Henry Travers
Ronald Reagan
Cora Witherspoon
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Edited by William Holmes
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 22, 1939 (1939-04-22)(US)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1 million (est) [1]
Box office$1.3 million (initial U.S. release) [2]

Dark Victory is a 1939 American melodrama film directed by Edmund Goulding, starring Bette Davis, and featuring George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers, and Cora Witherspoon. The screenplay by Casey Robinson was based on the 1934 play of the same title by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch, starring Tallulah Bankhead.

Contents

Plot

From the trailer Bette Davis in Dark Victory trailer.jpg
From the trailer

Judith “Judy” Traherne is a young, carefree, hedonistic Long Island socialite and heiress with a passion for horses, fast cars, and too much smoking and drinking. She initially ignores severe headaches and brief episodes of dizziness and double vision, but when she uncharacteristically takes a spill while riding, and then tumbles down a flight of stairs, her secretary and best friend Ann King insists she see the family doctor, who refers her to a specialist.

Dr. Frederick Steele is in the midst of closing his New York City office in preparation of a move to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he plans to devote his time to brain cell research and scientific study on their growth. He reluctantly agrees to see Judy, who is cold and openly antagonistic toward him. She shows signs of short-term memory loss, but dismisses her symptoms. Steele convinces her the ailments she is experiencing are serious and potentially life-threatening, and puts his career plans on hold to tend to her.

When diagnostic tests confirm his suspicions, Judy agrees to surgery to remove a malignant glioma brain tumor. Steele discovers the tumor cannot be completely removed, and realizes she has less than a year to live. The end will be painless but swift; shortly after experiencing total blindness, Judy will die.

In order to allow her a few more months of happiness, Steele opts to lie to Judy and Ann, and assures them the surgery was a success. As he is a poor liar, Ann is suspicious and confronts Steele, who admits the truth. Steele tells Ann, "she must never know" she is going to die soon. She agrees to remain silent and continue the lie.

Geraldine Fitzgerald and Bette Davis, after "Judy" has lost her sight, in final minutes of Dark Victory Dark-Victory-Fitzgerald-Davis.jpg
Geraldine Fitzgerald and Bette Davis, after “Judy” has lost her sight, in final minutes of Dark Victory

Judith and Steele become involved romantically and eventually engaged. While helping his assistant pack the office prior to their departure for Vermont, Judith discovers her case history file containing letters from several doctors, all of them confirming Steele's prognosis. Assuming Steele was marrying her out of pity, Judy breaks off the engagement and reverts to her former lifestyle. One day, her stablemaster Michael O'Leary, who for years has loved her from afar, confronts her about her unruly behavior, and she confesses she is dying. Their conversation convinces her she should spend her final months happy, dignified, and with the man she loves. She apologizes to Steele, and they marry and move to Vermont. (Throughout the film Judith and O'Leary engage in arguments about the prospects of a colt, Challenger. O'Leary insists Challenger will never make a racehorse, while Judith sees him as a future champion. Just before her death, O'Leary admits to her that she was correct.)

Three months later, Ann comes to visit. She and Judith are in the garden planting bulbs when Judy comments on how odd it is she still feels the heat of the sun under the rapidly darkening skies. She and Ann immediately realize she actually is losing her vision and approaching the end. Judy makes Ann stay mum, as Steele is leaving that day to present his most recent medical findings—which hold out the long-term prospect of a cure for her type of cancer—in New York. Judy makes an excuse to remain home, helps him pack and sends him off, telling him “What we have now can’t be destroyed. That’s our victory, our victory over the dark. It’s a victory because we’re not afraid.” Then, after bidding Ann, her housekeeper Martha (who has silently deduced the situation), and her dogs farewell, she goes to her bedroom. She kneels briefly, apparently praying, then lies down on the bed. Martha enters and drapes a blanket over her, then withdraws when Judy asks to be left alone. The camera focuses on the motionless Judith as the screen becomes blurry, then fades to black.

Cast

Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis (center, left to right) in the film's trailer Dark Victory trailer group shot.jpg
Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis (center, left to right) in the film's trailer

Cast notes:

Production

Tallulah Bankhead originated the role of Judith Traherne in the Broadway production, which ran for 51 performances at the Plymouth Theatre, [6] before being cut short when Bankhead fell ill with a bacterial infection. Davis openly admitted in later years that she had emulated Bankhead in the role. In 1935, David O. Selznick wanted to cast Greta Garbo and Fredric March in the leads, but Garbo chose to play the lead in Anna Karenina instead. In 1936, he offered the role to Merle Oberon, but contractual problems prevented her from doing the film. When Bette Davis discovered the play in 1938, she shopped it to every producer on the Warners lot, and Hal Wallis bought the rights from Selznick for her, for $50,000, when director Edmound Goulding and producer David Lewis showed interest in the project. [3]

Davis had recently ended affairs with William Wyler and Howard Hughes and her husband Ham Nelson had filed for divorce, and after the first few days of filming she begged to be released from her contract, claiming she was too sick to continue. [7] Producer Hal Wallis responded, "I've seen the rushes – stay sick!" She found comfort with Brent, who had just divorced Constance Worth, and the two embarked on an affair that continued throughout filming and for a year – and three films – after. [5] Goulding shot the film in sequence, and the arc of Judith's relationship with Dr. Steele mirrored Davis' relationship with Brent. [5] Davis was later to say that she wanted to marry Brent, but thought that it wouldn't work out. Still, "Of the men I didn't marry, the dearest was George Brent." [5]

The tune, "Oh, Give Me Time for Tenderness" sung by Judith was written by Edmund Goulding and Elsie Janis. The voice of Vera Van was dubbed for Davis.

Another scene for the film's ending was shot, but ultimately was deemed anticlimactic: after Judith's death, her horse was seen winning a race, and her stablehand Michael (Bogart) was shown crying. The scene met with negative response with sneak preview audiences and was cut. [8]

The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall.

Reception

Marquee at the Oakwood Theatre in Toronto promoting Dark Victory Oakwood Theatre in 1924.png
Marquee at the Oakwood Theatre in Toronto promoting Dark Victory

Frank S. Nugent, in his review in The New York Times , observed: "A completely cynical appraisal would dismiss it all as emotional flim-flam, a heartless play upon tender hearts by a playwright and company well versed in the dramatic uses of going blind and improvising on Camille . But it is impossible to be that cynical about it. The mood is too poignant, the performances too honest, the craftsmanship too expert. Miss Davis, naturally, has dominated—and quite properly—her film, but Miss Fitzgerald has added a sentient and touching portrayal of the friend, and George Brent, as the surgeon, is—dare we say?—surprisingly self-contained and mature. This once we must run the risk of being called a softy: we won't dismiss Dark Victory with a self-defensive sneer." [9]

Variety called the film "intense drama" and "a nicely produced offering [with] Bette Davis in a powerful and impressive role." [10]

Time Out London critic Tom Milne writes: "[Davis] and [director Edmund] Goulding almost transform the soap into style; a Rolls-Royce of the weepie world." [11]

On Turner Classic Movies, Margarita Landazuri said: "Dark Victory was a three-hanky hit. Filmgoers and critics alike knew their emotions were being manipulated, but so expertly and touchingly that they couldn't help but cheer." [5]

The film was included at #32 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions.

The film is mentioned in the play "Steel Magnolias," by Clairee in Act Two, Scene 1. [12] It is also mentioned in the 2015 movie The Frontier by the Luann character as a missed opportunity in her career.

Dark Victory currently holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty-three reviews. The site's consensus states: "Bette Davis does it her way with a tour de force performance in Dark Victory, a moving melodrama that snatches triumph from the jaws of mortality." [13]

Awards and honors

Bette Davis was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress but lost to Vivien Leigh, star of Gone with the Wind . Max Steiner, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score for both this and Gone with the Wind, lost to Herbert Stothart for The Wizard of Oz . The film itself lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to Gone with the Wind.

The New York Times named Dark Victory as one of the "10 Best Films of 1939", as did Film Daily, and the National Board of Review picked both Bette Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald for Best Acting that year. [14]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Adaptations and remakes

Radio

On January 8, 1940 Davis and Spencer Tracy appeared in a 60-minute adaptation of the film on Lux Radio Theatre . [18] Barbara Stanwyck and Melvyn Douglas had previously performed an adaptation, one based on the original Broadway play, on Lux Radio Theatre on April 4, 1938. [19] On March 6, 1952, CBS Radio's Hollywood Sound Stage aired a condensed 30-minute version starring Stanwyck and David Brian. [20] [21]

Film

In 1963, the film was remade as Stolen Hours with Susan Hayward and Michael Craig, directed by Daniel Petrie. The action took place in then-contemporary England.

Television

It was remade in 1953, under its original title, as a TV adaptation for the Broadway Television Theatre , starring Sylvia Sidney, Christopher Plummer, and Ian Keith. In 1976, the story was produced under its original title as an NBC television movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery as television producer Katherine Merrill under the care of Dr. Michael Grant, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins; this version was directed by Robert Butler. [3]

Music

Max Steiner's original score to Dark Victory was released in 2006 by Screen Archives Entertainment and Chelsea Rialto Studios. The album contains the majority of the score as heard in the film in chronological order. It was produced using digital copies of the composer's personal reference acetate discs stored at Brigham Young University which were digitally restored by Ray Faiola. This rare limited edition includes a lavishly illustrated 32 page color booklet featuring extensive liner notes by film and music historians Rudy Behlmer, Ray Faiola and James V. D'Arc (Curator of the BYU Film Music Archives) detailing the film's production and scoring. [22]

Track listing

  1. Main Title - 0:55
  2. The Accident - 1:53
  3. Ann’s Concern - 2:27
  4. Running Away From the Truth - 5:13
  5. Diagnosis - 2:46
  6. In Your Hands - 1:38
  7. Telling Ann the Truth - 3:57
  8. Judy’s Suspicions - 2:18
  9. Prognosis Negative - 1:53
  10. Oh! Give Me Time for Tenderness - 0:28
  11. The Tack Room - 2:55
  12. Ann Weeps Over Judy - 1:17
  13. Fred Proposes to Judy - 3:06
  14. Home in Vermont - 1:56
  15. The End is Near - 4:25
  16. Our Victory Over the Dark - 5:01
  17. End Cast - 0:28

Total Time: 38:76

Related Research Articles

<i>All About Eve</i> 1950 US drama film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

All About Eve is a 1950 American drama film written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. It was based on the 1946 short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr, although screen credit was not given for this.

Bette Davis American actress (1908–1989)

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first thespian to accrue ten nominations.

Tallulah Bankhead American actress

Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was an American stage and screen actress. She was a member of the Brockman Bankhead family, a prominent Alabama political family. Both her grandfather and her uncle served as US Senators; her father served as a US Representative in Congress for 11 terms, the final two as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Tallulah Bankhead's support of liberal causes, including the budding civil rights movement, broke with her southern contemporaries with their support of white supremacy and Jim Crow laws as championed by Southern Democrats; she often opposed her own family publicly.

George Brent Irish-American actor

George Brent was an Irish-American stage, film, and television actor. He is best remembered for the eleven films he made with Bette Davis, which included Jezebel and Dark Victory.

<i>The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex</i> 1939 American historical romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is a 1939 American historical romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the play Elizabeth the Queen by Maxwell Anderson—which had a successful run on Broadway with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in the lead roles—the film fictionalizes the historical relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The screenplay was written by Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie.

<i>The Ref</i> 1994 film by Ted Demme

The Ref is a 1994 American black-comedy film directed by Ted Demme, starring Denis Leary, Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey.

<i>Pocketful of Miracles</i> 1961 film by Frank Capra

Pocketful of Miracles is a 1961 American comedy film starring Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, and directed by Frank Capra, filmed in Panavision. The screenplay, by Hal Kanter and Harry Tugend, was based on Robert Riskin's screenplay for the 1933 film Lady for a Day, which was adapted from the 1929 Damon Runyon short story "Madame La Gimp." That original 1933 film was also directed by Capra — one of two films that he originally directed and later remade, the other being Broadway Bill (1934) and its remake Riding High (1950).

Geraldine Fitzgerald Irish-American actress

Geraldine Mary Fitzgerald was an Irish actress and a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 2020, she was listed at number 30 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.

<i>Jezebel</i> (1938 film) 1938 film by William Wyler

Jezebel is a 1938 American romantic drama film released by Warner Bros. and directed by William Wyler. It stars Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, supported by George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Crisp, Richard Cromwell, and Fay Bainter. The film was adapted by Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston, and Robert Buckner, from the 1933 play by Owen Davis Sr. Tallulah Bankhead was originally slated for the stage role, but fell severely ill during rehearsals and was replaced by Miriam Hopkins.

<i>The Great Lie</i> 1941 film by Edmund Goulding

The Great Lie is a 1941 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding, and starring Bette Davis, George Brent and Mary Astor. The screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee is based on the novel January Heights by Polan Banks.

<i>Born Yesterday</i> (1950 film) 1950 film by George Cukor

Born Yesterday is a 1950 American comedy-drama film directed by George Cukor, based on the 1946 stage play of the same name by Garson Kanin. The screenplay was credited to Albert Mannheimer. According to Kanin's autobiography, Cukor did not like Mannheimer's work, believing it lacked much of the play's value, so he approached Kanin about adapting a screenplay from his own play. Because of legal entanglements, Kanin did not receive screen credit.

Lottie Williams American actress (1874–1962)

Lottie Williams was an American character actress whose career spanned both the silent and sound film eras.

<i>Shining Victory</i> 1941 film by Irving Rapper

Shining Victory is a 1941 American drama film based on the 1940 play, Jupiter Laughs, by A. J. Cronin. It stars James Stephenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp, and Barbara O'Neil, and it was the first film directed by Irving Rapper. Bette Davis makes a brief cameo appearance as a nurse in the film.

Bette Davis filmography Every movie Bette Davis was in.

This is a complete filmography of Bette Davis. Davis began acting in films in 1931, initially as a contract player with Universal Studios, where she made her film debut in Bad Sister (1931). Davis was initially seen as unappealing by studio executives, and was assigned to a string of B-movies early in her career.

<i>The Old Maid</i> (1939 film) 1939 film by Edmund Goulding

The Old Maid is a 1939 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by Casey Robinson is based on the 1935 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Zoë Akins, which was adapted from the 1924 Edith Wharton novella The Old Maid: the Fifties.

<i>Deception</i> (1946 film) 1946 American film with Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains directed by Irving Rapper

Deception is a 1946 American film noir drama released by Warner Brothers and directed by Irving Rapper. The film is based on the 1927 play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil. The screenplay was written by John Collier and Joseph Than. It stars Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, who had also appeared together in the highly successful Now, Voyager (1942).

June Travis

June Travis was an American film actress.

<i>The Little Foxes</i> (film) 1941 film by William Wyler

The Little Foxes is a 1941 American drama film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Lillian Hellman is based on her 1939 play The Little Foxes. Hellman's ex-husband Arthur Kober, Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell contributed additional scenes and dialogue.

<i>Housewife</i> (film) 1934 film by Alfred E. Green

Housewife is a 1934 American drama film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring George Brent, Bette Davis and Ann Dvorak. The screenplay by Manuel Seff and Lillie Hayward is based on a story by Hayward and Robert Lord.

<i>Dark Victory</i> (play)

Dark Victory is a 1934 Broadway play written by George Brewer Jr. and Bertram Bloch starring Tallulah Bankhead. It premiered on November 7 at the Plymouth Theatre and ran until December 19.

References

Notes

  1. "1939 Hollywood Toppers". Variety. 3 January 1940. p. 28.
  2. Fragias, Leonidas (2017). Annual US Top Film Rentals 1912 - 1979 (Kindle Edition). Leonidas Fragias.
  3. 1 2 3 "Dark Victory: Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  4. Sikov 2007, p. 138.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Landazuri, Margarita. "Dark Victory" (article), Turner Classic Movies, Retrieved: August 20, 2012.
  6. "Dark Victory." Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved: August 20, 2012.
  7. Schickel and Perry 2009, pp. 102–103.
  8. DVD audio commentary by film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton, 2005 issue, Warner Home Video
  9. Nugent, Frank S. "Dark Victory (1939): Bette Davis scores new honors in 'Dark Victory'; George Brent also is seen in the music hall feature" The New York Times (April 21, 1939)
  10. "Dark Victory (1939)." Variety, December 31, 1938. Retrieved: August 20, 2012.
  11. Milne, Tom. Time Out London review 2008, p. 242.
  12. Harling, Robert (1988). Steel Magnolias. Dramatists Play Service. p. 45. ISBN   978-0-8222-1078-8.
  13. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dark_victory
  14. "Awards" on Allmovie.com
  15. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute . Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  16. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  17. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute . Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  18. "KSL – THE VOICE OF THE WEST (advertisement)". The Deseret News. 1940-01-08. p. 14. Retrieved 2020-11-03.
  19. "KSL – THE VOICE OF THE WEST (advertisement)". The Deseret News. 1938-04-04. p. 16. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  20. Goldin, J. David. "Hollywood Sound Stage." radiogoldindex.com, 2012. Retrieved: August 20, 2012.
  21. Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  22. "DARK VICTORY Soundtrack Now Available!". FSM Board. Retrieved May 24, 2021.

Bibliography

Streaming audio