Miss Davis, victorious.

From the year 1939 to the year 1944, Bette Davis was nominated for an Oscar at every ceremony. She won in 1939 for Jezebel, playing just the sort of character you’d expect her to be playing with a title like that. (That second Oscar would turn out to be her last; she would end up with 11 total career nominations, and you better believe that each one was for best leading actress.)

The movie she was nominated for in 1940 was 1939’s Dark Victory, a huge, tear-jerking success for Warner Brothers. If you’ve ever heard the line “I think I’ll have a large order of prognosis negative!”, this is the movie that comes from. Bette is Judith Traherne, a selfish but not unlovable socialite, who neglects to tell anyone when she starts having pounding headaches and double vision. Eventually a fall from her horse forces her to go to the doctor, and he figures out what’s wrong with her. You guessed it: brain tumor. The thing is, the doctor falls for Judith, and so when the operation isn’t a success and he believes her death is imminent, he lies to her. She thinks she’s fine, but when she stumbles across her file while breezing around his office in his absence, it leads to a tense, terrific confrontation scene in a restaurant and the delivery of that immortal line.

Highly recommended viewing for anyone who appreciates that certain brand of Golden Age Hollywood melodrama. Which, of course, everyone should.

Here, the trailer, which is fabulous in a different way. All that writing spelling out the story on the screen seems pretty ridiculous until you remember the awful “In a world where…” voiceovers we get now. And yes, that is Ronald Reagan playing one of her buddies. How I love it when that guy turns up!


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