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A 1935 memo from M-G-M production executive David O. Selznick to Greta Garbo discloses that Selznick suggested buying the play Dark Victory as a vehicle for Garbo and Fredric March. At the time, the two were scheduled to make Anna Karenina with George Cukor, but Selznick felt that the picture was too similiar to Garbo's other costume dramas and suggested that she consider Dark Victory instead. In 1936, Selznick offered the lead to Merle Oberon; however, because of complications involving her contract, Oberon refused the role. For additional information on the subject, for The Garden of Allah. Modern sources add that Bette Davis discovered the play in 1938 and touted it to every producer on the Warner Bros. lot. When producer David Lewis and director Edmund Goulding expressed an interest, studio head Hal Wallis agreed to buy the play to keep Davis happy. Warners then bought the play from Selznick for $50,000. Davis claims that Goudling worked on the script and added the character of Judith's best friend Ann so that Judith would never have to complain about her tragedy.
According to materials contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, to create the appearance of snow, technicians dipped cornflakes in white lead. The lead kept the flakes from blowing away in the strong winds of the San Fernando Valley, where the film was being shot on location. Dark Victory marked the American motion picture debut of Irish-born actress Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005), who previously had appeared on stage and made several British films, The picture was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Original Score. In 1938, Barbara Stanwyck and Melvyn Douglas starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the play, and in 1939 Davis and Spencer Tracy starred in another radio version of the story. In 1963, United Artists released Stolen Hours, also based on the play, starring Susan Hayward and Michael Craig and directed by Daniel Petrie. In 1976, NBC broadcast a television version directed by Robert Butler and starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Anthony Hopkins.