ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST PICTURE
A frivolous young heiress learns she has terminal cancer and tries to put meaning into her heretofore misspent life. [ Dark Victory credits: Dir: Edmund Goulding/ Bette Davis, George Brent, Geraldine Fitzgerald/ 105 min/ Drama/ Ayn Rand, Creator as Hero]
Many films have been made about doomed people trying to make the most of their remaining life, but this is one of the best.
At the center of this story is a rich, shallow young woman who suddenly learns she has terminal cancer. She tries to forget her misfortune through hard drinking, endless partying, and other frivolous diversions, but nothing will work. Meanwhile, her doctor (who becomes her beau and, in the end, husband) is trying to find a cure for the cancer that’s killing her. In the final climactic scene, he is on his way to a rare opportunity to share his important anticancer findings with other researchers at a conference, just as the dying heroine begins to experience the telltale signs that she has only hours to live. Should she tell him of these signs and so stop him from going to the conference, spoiling his big chance to contribute something to the battle against her disease? Or should she let him go and so die alone? It’s the kind of dilemma of which great melodramas are made.
This is a popular film among Randians and was included in the Nathaniel Branden Institute film series “The Romantic Screen.”
Bette Davis, who stars, considered this her best work ever. Her high-energy performance is supported by a very effective Max Steiner musical score, a superior script, and an all-star cast. No question about it, this is Hollywood at the height of its powers. About this film, Bette Davis said: “The nearest to being satisfied [with my work] that I can remember was Dark Victory. I went into the projection room all alone and saw it. Well, I remember walking across the lot and I could not get the grin off my face … That’s almost the only time that I really felt the film and performance was a very good job.”