Synopsis: A young, spirited, wealthy socialite is diagnosed with a brain tumor and she goes through revolutions in her life, and questions it's purpose, and the point of time, in the mean while, she falls in love with a brain surgeon who becomes frustrated with the idea that some one so full of spirit must be condemned to an awful disease. While this two struggle with in themselves, they both go on a journey to find what is meaningful in life.
A triumph film that relied solely on the performance of the one actress playing Judith Terherne, lucky for Studio Boss Jack Warner, he was relying on a star who knew what she was doing...Bette Davis. A woman that had so much presence on the screen, she could be in a cast with the greatest actors in the world, and she would still be the lead because she has something very few have, star quality. Something that you can not gain, or learn, you had to have it, and Bette Davis had it. But do not let her natural talent as an actress and star fool you, for she was one of the hardest working actress that cinema has every had, and will ever have, for she was an absolute professional and perfectionist. So with a name and talent so big, Dark Victory was on the clear path to being a success...and Mrs. Davis knew this. For she was the one to persuade Jack Warner into obtaining the rights, when he mocked the whole idea, saying no one in their right minds would want to see a woman go blind on screen; clearly he forgot who was going to star in it, for no one could make going blind more glamourous than Bette Davis, and she goes out on a bang.
Dark Victory's main purpose as a film is to showcase Davis's talent, but boy does she showcase it. In probably one of Bette Davis's best performances (tied with All About Eve), and one of the greatest performances ever to hit the screen, Dark Victory is the classic, sob story that even now, in 2010 has me balling half way into the movie. A movie that should have reached it's expiration date 20 years ago, continues to prevail as a classic and as a great, quality movie, for that is one thing I have learned about acting, you can never put an expiration date on a good performance. However, I must say there are many subtle things that complement Mrs. Davis's performance, and they were unfortunately unnoticed at the time because they lacked the 30s finesse, such as Gone with the Wind. Rather these things which I will reveal, chose to go towards a more natural and smooth direction that was uncommon at the time. What was so strange about this film was the music, and the cinematography. Instead of having a huge, grand orchestra, such as Gone with the Wind or The Wizard of Oz, which went on to win Best Score that year, Dark Victory plays it down, going for a more emotional score by Max Stein. Same goes for the cinematography, instead of having wide angle, sweeping shots of Bette Davis running through hills, the cinematography mirrored some of the emotions in the film, and was kept simple not to outshine a bright lightbulb.
Now I will admit, this movie, does not choose to go into great stories of the civil war, or go deep into thought-provoking subjects, instead it chooses to be a tear jerker, melodramatic film that merely has everyone there for one reason only, the star. But this movie plays the genre to perfection, and deals with subjects that we haven't even solved now, and it is a quality film with fine performances, and a great star, to make a great movie.