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Dark Victory opened on Broadway in 1934 and starred Tallulah Bankhead. Davis thought the part was perfect for her and convinced producer Hal Willis to purchase the rights.
“I loved Dark Victory and it got me another Oscar nomination. The life I have led is unbelievable,” Bette Davis said.
Go behind the scene below of heart-gripping drama below.
1. Tracy was considered for the doctor.
Casey Robinson, who wrote the screenplay, envisioned Spencer Tracy as the doctor. Tracy and Davis had previously worked together in 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (read about that here). But when Tracy was unavailable, George Brent was cast. However, Tracy and Davis did get to perform together in a radio adaption of Dark Victory in 1940.
2. A character addition helped immensely.
Dark Victory was Geraldine Fitzgerald's American film debut. However, her role playing Bette Davis' friend was not in the original play. She said, “[The] character of Ann was... to act as a sort of one-person Greek chorus, so that the central doomed figure would not have to cry for herself... This was a wonderful idea and strengthened the drama immeasurably.”
3. Ronald Reagan got Bette Davis’ help.
Originally, Reagan’s character was more of a bad influence on Bette’s character. Reagan said, “He wanted me to encourage Bette to get even drunker. I felt that this man had real affection for Bette and would have done just the opposite.” Davis agreed with Reagan and got the director to change the plot, which she felt worked better for her character as well.
4. It was Davis’ favorite role.
But it wasn’t easy. Before the film began, Davis' divorce took such a toll that she actually asked to be released from the picturre. But producer Hal Willis believed that her state would only help her performance and convinced her to remain. The role itself also caused some grief. “For weeks after we finished filming, I slept badly, and when I woke up, I was too afraid to open my eyes,” Davis said, fearing a similar fate to her character in the film.