AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Dark Victory
Director: Edmund Goulding (Dir)
Release Date:   22 Apr 1939
Duration (in mins):  105
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Cast: Bette Davis  (Judith Traherne)
  George Brent  (Dr. Frederick Steele)
  Humphrey Bogart  (Michael O'Leary)

Summary: 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. 

Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Director: Edmund Goulding (Dir)
  Frank Heath (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal B. Wallis (Exec prod)
  David Lewis (Assoc prod)
Writer: Casey Robinson (Scr)

Subject Major: Brain surgery
  Death and dying
  Incurable diseases
Subject Minor: Friendship
  Horse owners
  Long Island (NY)

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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