Dark Victory is a 1939 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by Casey Robinson was based on the unsuccessful 1934 play of the same title by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch.
Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) is a young, carefree, hedonistic Long Island socialite/heiress with a passion for horses, fast cars, and too much smoking and drinking. She initially ignores severe headaches and brief episodes of dizziness and double vision, but when she uncharacteristically takes a spill while riding, and then tumbles down a flight of stairs, her secretary/best friend Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) insists she see the family doctor, who refers her to a specialist.
Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) is in the midst of closing his New York City office in preparation of a move to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he plans to devote his time to brain cell research and scientific study on their growth. He reluctantly agrees to see Judith, who is cold and openly antagonistic toward him. She shows signs of short-term memory loss, but dismisses her symptoms. Steele convinces her the ailments she is experiencing are serious and potentially life-threatening, and puts his career plans on hold to tend to her.
When diagnostic tests confirm his suspicions, Judith agrees to surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. Steele discovers the tumor is inoperable, and realizes she has less than a year to live. The end will be painless but swift - shortly after experiencing total blindness, Judith will pass away.
In order to allow her a few more months of happiness, Steele opts to keep the diagnosis a secret and assures Judith and Ann the surgery was a success. Ann is suspicious and confronts Steele, who admits the truth. She agrees to remain silent.
Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis (center, left to right) in the film's trailer
Judith and Steele become involved romantically and eventually engaged. While helping his assistant pack the office prior to ...