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Dark Victory

“When you get inside my head, see if you can find any sense in it.”

Bette Davis Dealing with and Dying From Glioma

There’s a strength in storytelling that can exist in disease films because we’re following a person as they’re going through a very difficult period in their life that could very well end in death. That’s one of the elements that drew Bette Davis to the play “Dark Victory,” of which she had a hard time convincing Jack Warner that audiences would love it. He was wrong and she proved correctly, however, that a tragic story with your protagonist dying from the disease could draw in the audience. It clearly worked in this case as it lead to several Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we kick off our 13th season of the podcast with a full year looking at various awards categories through the decades, starting right here in our series on the 1940 Academy Awards • Best Picture as we discuss Edmund Goulding’s 1939 film Dark Victory.

Here’s a hint at what we talk about.

At the heart of this film, it’s really Bette Davis and she fully delivers. She’s very much playing the headstrong socialite we’d see often in her films, though the difference here is right out of the gate, she’s diagnosed with glioma, a form of brain tumor. Through her performance, we see her go through many of the stages of grief as she first fights against the fact that she’s sick and finally comes to terms and accepts it. It’s quite a ride, and it works because of Davis.

She couldn’t get there without the script, however, and its structure allows this film to be about her battling the disease, not as a side element in the story. From the start, she’s suffering from her glioma. It plays in unexpected ways, and lets us take the journey with her. Of course the journey wouldn’t be complete without the rest of the players, and they deliver. Geraldine Fitzgerald, George Brent, Ronald Reagan. Only Humphrey Bogart seems out of place here.

It’s a strong entry into the big studio year of 1939 that saw a lot of successful films of all genres stand out, and this one deservedly was nominated for Best Picture. We have a great time talking about it, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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When the movie ends, our conversation begins. We love movies. We’ve been talking about them, one movie a week, since 2011. It’s a lot of movies, that’s true, but we’re passionate about origins and performance, directors and actors, themes and genres, and so much more. So join the community and let’s hear about your favorite movies, too.
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