Dark Victory (1939)

105 mins | Melodrama | 22 April 1939

Director:

Edmund Goulding

Writer:

Casey Robinson

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Editor:

William Holmes

Production Designer:

Robert Haas

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

A 1935 memo from M-G-M production executive David O. Selznick to Greta Garbo discloses that Selznick suggested buying the play Dark Victory as a vehicle for Garbo and Fredric March. At the time, the two were scheduled to make Anna Karenina with George Cukor, but Selznick felt that the picture was too similiar to Garbo's other costume dramas and suggested that she consider Dark Victory instead. In 1936, Selznick offered the lead to Merle Oberon; however, because of complications involving her contract, Oberon refused the role. For additional information on the subject, See Entry for The Garden of Allah . Modern sources add that Bette Davis discovered the play in 1938 and touted it to every producer on the Warner Bros. lot. When producer David Lewis and director Edmund Goulding expressed an interest, studio head Hal Wallis agreed to buy the play to keep Davis happy. Warners then bought the play from Selznick for $50,000. Davis claims that Goudling worked on the script and added the character of Judith's best friend Ann so that Judith would never have to complain about her tragedy.
       According to materials contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, to create the appearance of snow, technicians dipped cornflakes in white lead. The lead kept the flakes from blowing away in the strong winds of the San Fernando Valley, where the film was being shot on location. Dark Victory marked the American motion picture debut of Irish-born actress Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913--2005), who previously had appeared on stage and made several British films, The picture was nominated for the following ... More Less

A 1935 memo from M-G-M production executive David O. Selznick to Greta Garbo discloses that Selznick suggested buying the play Dark Victory as a vehicle for Garbo and Fredric March. At the time, the two were scheduled to make Anna Karenina with George Cukor, but Selznick felt that the picture was too similiar to Garbo's other costume dramas and suggested that she consider Dark Victory instead. In 1936, Selznick offered the lead to Merle Oberon; however, because of complications involving her contract, Oberon refused the role. For additional information on the subject, See Entry for The Garden of Allah . Modern sources add that Bette Davis discovered the play in 1938 and touted it to every producer on the Warner Bros. lot. When producer David Lewis and director Edmund Goulding expressed an interest, studio head Hal Wallis agreed to buy the play to keep Davis happy. Warners then bought the play from Selznick for $50,000. Davis claims that Goudling worked on the script and added the character of Judith's best friend Ann so that Judith would never have to complain about her tragedy.
       According to materials contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, to create the appearance of snow, technicians dipped cornflakes in white lead. The lead kept the flakes from blowing away in the strong winds of the San Fernando Valley, where the film was being shot on location. Dark Victory marked the American motion picture debut of Irish-born actress Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913--2005), who previously had appeared on stage and made several British films, The picture was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Original Score. In 1938, Barbara Stanwyck and Melvyn Douglas starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the play, and in 1939 Davis and Spencer Tracy starred in another radio version of the story. In 1963, United Artists released Stolen Hours , also based on the play, starring Susan Hayward and Michael Craig and directed by Daniel Petrie. In 1976, NBC broadcast a television version directed by Robert Butler and starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Anthony Hopkins. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Mar 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Mar 39
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 38
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 38
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
13 Mar 39
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
12 Nov 38
p. 47.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Mar 39
p. 40.
New York Times
21 Apr 39
p. 27.
Variety
15 Mar 39
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A First National Picture; Jack L. Warner in charge of prod
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech dir
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Dark Victory by George Emerson Brewer, Jr. and Bertram Bloch (New York, 9 Nov 1934).
SONGS
"Oh Give Me Time for Tenderness," music and lyrics by Elsie Janis and Edmund Goulding.
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 April 1939
Production Date:
early October--late November 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 April 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8791
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4835
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Judith Traherne, a gay, irrepressible member of the Long Island horsey set begins to suffer from chronic headaches, her family physician, Dr. Parsons, insists that she see Dr. Frederick Steele, a brilliant young brain surgeon. Judith arrives at Steele's office on the day that he is to retire from surgery because of the death of one of his patients, but, intrigued by Judith's symptoms and charmed by her spirit, he postpones his retirement and takes her case. After performing delicate brain surgery on Judith, Steele discovers that her tumor is malignant and that she has only ten months to live. Her doctors decide to hide the grim truth from Judith, but Steele is unable to coneal the facts from her best friend, Ann King. After her recovery from surgery, Judith and Steele fall in love and plan to be married. While packing for their move to Vermont, Judith accidentally comes across her case history file and learns of her hopeless prognosis. Angered at Steele and Ann's betrayal, Judith spurns Steele and begins a frivolous pursuit of pleasure, hiding her heartbreak with deceitful gaiety. When Steele admonishes her to find peace so that she can meet death beautifully and finely, however, Judith realizes that she must extract from life a full measure of happiness in the few brief months she has left with the man she loves. She and Steele are married and decide to carry on as if an entire life stretched ahead of them, ignoring the shadow of death that is ever present. Then, one morning, death comes to Judith and she faces it with courage and dignity, thus ... +


When Judith Traherne, a gay, irrepressible member of the Long Island horsey set begins to suffer from chronic headaches, her family physician, Dr. Parsons, insists that she see Dr. Frederick Steele, a brilliant young brain surgeon. Judith arrives at Steele's office on the day that he is to retire from surgery because of the death of one of his patients, but, intrigued by Judith's symptoms and charmed by her spirit, he postpones his retirement and takes her case. After performing delicate brain surgery on Judith, Steele discovers that her tumor is malignant and that she has only ten months to live. Her doctors decide to hide the grim truth from Judith, but Steele is unable to coneal the facts from her best friend, Ann King. After her recovery from surgery, Judith and Steele fall in love and plan to be married. While packing for their move to Vermont, Judith accidentally comes across her case history file and learns of her hopeless prognosis. Angered at Steele and Ann's betrayal, Judith spurns Steele and begins a frivolous pursuit of pleasure, hiding her heartbreak with deceitful gaiety. When Steele admonishes her to find peace so that she can meet death beautifully and finely, however, Judith realizes that she must extract from life a full measure of happiness in the few brief months she has left with the man she loves. She and Steele are married and decide to carry on as if an entire life stretched ahead of them, ignoring the shadow of death that is ever present. Then, one morning, death comes to Judith and she faces it with courage and dignity, thus winning a victory over the forces of darkness. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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