Dark Victory (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dark Victory1939

Dark Victory (1939)



Critic Consensus: Bette Davis does it her way with a tour de force performance in Dark Victory, a moving melodrama that snatches triumph from the jaws of mortality.

Dark Victory Photos

Movie Info

Bette Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her role in this classic four-hanky tearjerker. Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) is a very wealthy Long Island heiress whose life is a constant whirl of cocktails, parties, and wild living. Despite her hedonistic lifestyle, Judith derives little pleasure from life except for her horses, cared for by stable master Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart). When Judith begins suffering from headaches and dizzy spells, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) gives her the bad news: she has a brain tumor that could threaten her life if not treated immediately. Judith consents to surgery, and Frederick informs her that the operation was a success. A grateful Judith quickly falls in love with Frederick, and they plan to marry. However, the tumor returns, and when Judith discovers that she has only a few months to live, she calls off the wedding, convinced that Frederick is marrying her only as an act of pity for a dying woman. A major success and perennial favorite, Dark Victory was later remade as Stolen Hours with Susan Hayward and as a TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery.

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Bette Davis
as Judith Traherne
George Brent
as Dr. Frederick Steele
Humphrey Bogart
as Michael O'Leary
Ronald Reagan
as Alec Hamin
Cora Witherspoon
as Carrie Spottswood
Henry Travers
as Dr. Parsons
Dorothy Peterson
as Miss Wainwright
Charles Richman
as Col. Mantle
Leonard Mudie
as Dr. Driscoll
Fay Helm
as Miss Dodd
Jack Mower
as Veterinarian
Ila Rhodes
as Secretary
Frank Darien
as Anxious Little Man
Rosella Towne
as Girl in Box
Nat Carr
as Doctor
Maris Wrixon
as Judith's Friend
Richard Bond
as Judith's Friend
Wilda Bennett
as Judith's Friend
Leyland Hodgson
as Judith's Friend
Mary Currier
as Judith's Friend
David Newell
as Judith's Friend
Marian Alden
as Judith's Friend
Paulette Evans
as Judith's Friend
Frank Mayo
as Judith's Friend
Sidney Bracey
as Bartender
Speirs Buskell
as Dr. Steele's Assistant
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Critic Reviews for Dark Victory

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (5)

Judith frequently grasps onto objects, her clothes or a chair... Davis has so much energy and life force flowing through her that she has to direct it somewhere.

April 24, 2020 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Bette Davis loses her sight, and we gain a classic.

December 22, 2010 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Guilty pleasure: One of Warner's best acted melodramas and Bette Davis's all-time favorite, in which she lives hard but dies in dignity as an heiress gone blind. Also Davis revenge as Tallulah Bankhead failed to bring the role to life in the 1934 play.

April 30, 2007 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
Top Critic

Even by the standards of a typical Bette Davis melodrama Dark Victory is an embarrassment of riches.

June 28, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The themes tend to be more powerful than the individual events, as tinier episodes populate a tale in need of more significant happenings.

December 7, 2020 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

[A] dramatic triumph.

June 23, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dark Victory


A woman discovers that she has a brain tumor and falls in love with her doctor. When viewed vis a vis Ikiru, Akira Kurosawa's brilliant film, Dark Victory has a lot to learn. The film posits that a patient's knowledge of his/her condition is detrimental, but Kurosawa is wiser, and the ruminations on mortality and life's usefulness are more poignant and inspiring. Though its embrasure of love, marriage, and romance feel petty against its betters, Dark Victory is a good film in and of itself, propelled by a great Bette Davis performance and George Brent's soulful gazes. Davis is delightful, and the film is saccharine in all the right places. Overall, you should watch this if you can't get a hold of Ikiru.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

This is a good movie, with good actors, and a good story. It's a dramatic and exciting thriller. I saw it a while ago, but I remember it was good.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

"I think I'll have a large order of PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE." Bette Davis has a brain tumor and about 10 months to live. A classic that's replete with melodrama and old fashioned sentimentality.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Dark Victory Quotes

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