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Dark Victory

This film is a premake of The Magnificent Ambersons, without that pesky loss of wealth.  Bette Davis plays a fabulously wealthy, arrogant spoiled brat who is fawned over and adored by just about everybody, including Humphrey Bogart, as her lowly, insubordinate, Irish, horse trainer and George Brent, the manly, heroic, saintly, lying, crusading brain surgeon who diagnoses her inoperable brain tumor.  The brat’s comeuppance impends from the very opening moments, and drags its heels maddeningly-slowly through this 104 minute star-vehicle.

Miss Judith’s sad predicament would probably have been far more interesting (to me) if Bogart’s moment of egalitarian honesty with her, late in the plod of the plot, had led to the human revelation of reciprocated carnal tension  —  and Brent were a bit of a charlatan, whose matrimonial intentions really revolved around Judy’s enormous financial inheritance &/or her surprising ample rack — and Ronald Reagan’s affable, uppercrust sot had been mercilessly brutalized by everyone capable of inflicting pain on his ass with spurs, blunt force and cramming innumerable riding crops up his dark victory.

I guess I despise this tale’s conspicuously mythic principles:

  1. The lives of ordinary people are terribly insignificant; in keeping with the indefatigable conceit that inherited wealth makes anybody beautiful, adorable and important.
  2. Never tell the whole truth to a person with a limited lifespan.  (Pssst…that’s everyone, so always bullshit your ass off).
  3. Happiness and virtue reside in prolonged denial.
  4. Irish actors (Brent and Fitzgerald) feign haughty Anglo-American accents, while Bogart needs a plebian brogue for no discernible reason.
  5. Always photograph 31-year-old Davis (playing 23) through focus-softening gauze unless you can pull the camera back to Cleveland.  (Tootsie humor)
  6. The best people die alone, finely and with dignity.

Irrational segue into a brighter vane:  After Top Hat and (even more-particularly) Swingtime, Carefree is an enormously disappointing experimental let-down.

Segue 2:  I read somewhere recently that David Suskind cited The Golden Age of Television as having begun in late 1938.  Most everybody else thinks it started ten to fifteen years later.  I think he meant that Orson, Winston and Adolph demonstrated the unlimited and barely-imagined power of broadcast media to rock the planet with panic, confidence and aspiration.  If I’ve caught his drift correctly, it’s an extremely insightful statement about the crass, commercialization of quality entertainment bent to the proprietary ends of the special interests that own it — who aren’t necessarilly vapid assholes, that’s just the role they’ve actually played in the corruption of TV from the transcendentally teletheatricality of Marty, 12 Angry Men and Patterns to Fox News (which might well be Murrow’s worst nightmare).

17 Jun 11 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment