Monday, February 8, 2010

review: Dark Victory

1939. What a year. The more I see of movies made in this year, the more I realize that it really was a golden year for Hollywood. I mean, Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind kind of swamped everything, but there are so many gems. This is one of them.
Story: a young, vivacious woman (Bette Davis) is having problems with her sight and her head. Call in a specialist (George Brent). I don't know all the medical lingo - but it is something with the brain, and they need to operate. They do, and the operation is a success, but you find out that it is also a failure because it only fixed the immediate problem. She is going to die. But she will be okay until just before, when she will become blind. The rest, I leave to you to see.
What makes this movie is the performances. Bette Davis is ... well, Bette Davis. She is so fascinating in this role - mostly because the character is just so good - despite herself. At first, she seems a little fake, but quickly you learn the difference between the facade and her personality. When you can tell the difference between an actress playing a happy woman, and an actress who is playing a woman who is playing at being happy, you know you've got something great on your hands.
George Brent is also quite wonderful in it. He goes from brilliant, no nonsense, to tortured lover to incredibly happy and ignorant. Geraldine Fitgerald is also quite subtle in her acting. It takes a while to see if she is good or not. The only thing I don't like is that so often she won't look at the camera or at someone. She is always diverting her eyes. Some of it is character, but the rest just seems odd. But I quite warmed up to her after a bit, and her character is so touching. Humphrey Bogart is quite out of his realm in this movie. He's not bad by any means at all, the character is just different. He plays the Irish stablehand. I think he got short changed in this film - but that is the studio system for you. He was a contract player, and he played the role they assigned him. The character isn't as developed as I would have liked. And if Bogart's character needed more, than Reagan really got the shaft part. He's just there. You hardly notice him at all except for the constant glass in his hand.
All in all, a very ... poignant film.
3 out of 5 stars

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