Intense drama, with undercurrent of tragedy ever present, Dark Victory is a nicely produced offering. It presents Bette Davis in a powerful and impressive role.
In play form [by George Emerson Brewer Jr and Bertram Bloch] Tallulah Bankhead was not able to overcome the morbid dramatics of the piece and Dark Victory had a brief Broadway run. Film rights were originally purchased by David Selznick, but he shelved production plans some weeks before picture was due to hit the production stages.
Story unfolds the tragic circumstances of Davis, gay heiress, afflicted with a malignant brain tumor. A delicate operation by specialist George Brent is temporarily successful, but when the girl finally accidentally discovers her true condition, she embarks on a wild whirl of parties. In love with Brent, Davis quickly marries the medic for a brief happiness on his Vermont farm.
Important is the uncovering of Geraldine Fitzgerald in her first effort, as Davis’ confidential secretary. Seems rather unnecessary to toss away the ability of Humphrey Bogart, himself satisfactory, but role is extraneous.
1939: Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Bette Davis)