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Bette Davis cited her role in this four-hankie weeper, as a fast-living Long Island socialite who discovers humility when she is stricken with a potentially fatal disease, as her own personal favourite.
Tissue mills will work overtime to prepare for tonight's screening of one of the most celebrated weepies ever made. Davis dominates as Long Island socialite Judith Traherne (a role she later cited as her personal favourite), whose heedless existence, all speed (fast cars, racehorses) and peril (booze, cigarettes), shades toward mortality when she begins suffering blinding headaches and blackouts. Falling in love with the surgeon who "cures" her (George Brent), a now subdued Judith discovers that her days might be numbered after all. A pre-stardom Humphrey Bogart plays the stablehand smitten with Judith who, in a final sequence that was cut from the film when audiences balked, weeps as her horse wins a race — a last "dark victory." Pauline Kael admired how Davis "slam[med] her way" through the film's clichés "in her nerviest style," but those very clichés are handled with great panache and poignancy, turning Dark Victory into "a Rolls Royce of the weepie world" (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).