Dark Victory (1939): Movie Review

Dark Victory
Director: Edmund Goulding
USA 1939
104 min.

Starring: Bette Davis (article), George Brent, Humphrey Bogart , Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan, among others.
A spoiled 23 year old heiress, Judith (Davis), is faced with the fact that she is dying of a brain tumour. When Judith falls in love with her brain surgeon, she is afraid that he proposes to her out of pity.
Since we know from the beginning that Judith sooner or later has to die, the film focuses on the environment’s inconvenient feelings toward the tragedy and how Judith tries to make the best out of the time she has left, rather than focusing on the question “Will they find a cure?” or “Will she really die?” A brilliant plot direction.

What I like about Dark Victory:

  • A brilliant script, that doesn’t chicken out with an un-realistic happy ending, as post-codes tend to do.
  • Bette Davis in her probably best role. I can’t see any other actress do the part of Judith as perfectly as Davis. Those big eyes of her hold a lot of emotions.
  • Ronald Reagan. I mean, seriously. How many countries other than the USA could make a president out of a (perhaps only decent) actor?
  • Well, the rest of the amazing cast. George Brent is really growing on me as an actor (hadn’t any opinion of him just a few months ago), and Geraldine Fitzgerald is amazing as the heartbroken best friend of Judith’s.
  • The ending. So sad, beautiful and artistic

What I don’t like about Dark Victory:

How could Warner Bros do this to Humphrey Bogart? He is just so wrong as the Irish stableboy. His accent is embarrassing, and his part has really no great purpose in the film.

Lolita Kane is a film fan whose views on cinema can be read at Lolita’s Classics.

  • Debbie

    I liked the movie although I am not a big Bette Davis fan, I adore Humphrey Bogart so I watch anything with him in it even though it is not his best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000968384499 Elena Sandy

    I agree about this movie. I have seen it twice. George Brent has become one of my favorite actors. Especially in this movie he shows the great ‘savoir faire’ of the so called secondary actors.
    Without him the movie would not be the same.

  • Manuel martínez

    I have always been a fan of Bette Davis, she is one of my favorites and I think she was very good in Dark Victory. She has better filas as Jezebel, Dangerous bur she is very good at it. George Brent is one of those actros that is always in place, not too good looking, not a bad actor but not one thetais reconize for his actingg skills. I liked Geraldine Fiztegerald very much. For me she is an actress that was underrrated and didn´t roles that gave her a better chance.

  • Manuel Santayana

    It is indeed an excellent performance –a bit over the top at times, I feel. But Bette Davis was in a class all by herself. She has many great performances; but I think she was at her greatest in (the order is mine) 1. The Letter 2. Jezebel 3. Of Human Bondage. Geraldine Fitzgerald was always memorable in my opinion. And George Brent’s sedate presence, never brilliant, but believable, was the perfect contrast to actresses like Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis, always somewhat larger than life, with whom he starred in memorable films.