Dark Victory
Dir: Edmund Goulding
Bette Davis had to fight for everything she got.
She did not have typical film star looks, and was rejected often in her early years.

Her very first acting job in Hollywood was to act in a screen test for new leading men, and she was required merely to lie down while fifteen young actors one at a time lay on top of her and kissed her passionately. She was mortified by the ordeal.

Given her own screen-test, she was put in a badly-fitting dress, and director William Wyler mocked her to the crew, saying 'What do you think of these dames who show their chests and think they can get jobs?'

In her first two years, she appeared in eight films. Every one was unsuccessful.

Even the story of 'Dark Victory', one of Bette Davis' most successful and memorable performances, was a journey tinged with disappointment.

Originally, David O' Selznick bought the rights, and was going to produce 'Dark Victory', but then became involved with 'Gone with the Wind'.

Bette Davis had just earned an Academy Award for her performance as a spoiled southern belle in 'Jezebel', and she was considered the front-runner to play Scarlett O'Hara. Even a radio poll voted her as the public's favourite to play the role.

But Selznick rejected the idea, and cast Vivien Leigh.

It was one of many low-points in Davis' career. She was sued for divorce by her husband, Ham Nelson, who had discovered her infidelity, and cited Davis' 'cruel and inhuman manner'.
While still depressed, she worked on 'Dark Victory', and producer Hal B Wallis encouraged her to channel her emotional state into her performance.

She did, and it was one of the finest performances of her career.

The ultimate irony was that although her performance was nominated for an Oscar, she lost out to Vivien Leigh.

In 'Dark Victory', Davis plays the 30's equivalent of Paris Hilton; a rich, spoiled, shallow bitch.

But then she finds she has a brain tumor, she has to reconsider her life.

Sentimental without ever being corny, the film shows that the invincibility of youth and money is only an illusion.

Bette Davis turns out to be quite wrong when she says,

"I'm young and strong and nothing can touch me!"

Paul Spurrier