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Bright Victory

Bright Victory(1952)

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The working title of this film was Lights Out. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, in March 1946, David W. Siegel and producer-director Robert Thoeren considered forming a partnership to make a film based on Baynard Kendrick's novel, which was a best-seller. Kendrick had earlier written a detective series, featuring "sightless detective" Duncan Maclain. The accuracy of that portrayal led Kendrick to be recommended to the War Department to help in the rehabilitation of blind veterans, and that work led to his writing Lights Out. Los Angeles Times reported in August 1946 that the novel was "as good as bought" by M-G-M, which had produced two films featuring Kendrick's Duncan Maclain character, Eyes in the Night (1942) and The Hidden Eye (1945; see the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), although the studio denied the deal. According to New York Times, the screen rights to the novel were bought in 1946 by Clarence Brown for $10,000. Brown then sold them the next year for $50,000 to Robert Montgomery, who had recently become associated with Universal-International.
       Montgomery planned to direct and star in the film, with Joan Harrison writing the screenplay and producing. In March 1947, New York Times reported, "The color problem will not loom as large on the screen as it did in the novel, according to Miss Harrison, since the love story will be the primary subject in the screen treatment. On the other hand, she declared, sectional prejudice in the United States will not prevent the studio from facing the Negro question on the screen, although box-office dictates have previously blocked all examination of the subject." The film ultimately was produced and written by Robert Buckner, who, according to New York Times, said he found it necessary to change certain aspects of the book; author Kendrick nevertheless praised the resulting film. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in May 1950, PCA director Joseph I. Breen, after examining a draft of the screenplay, advised, "The two uses of the word 'niggers' are likely to prove offensive, and we seriously recommend that you substitute the word 'Negroes.'" The studio, however, kept the word in the film.
       Extensive filming was done at the United States Army General Hospital at Valley Forge, PA, which, according to New York Times, Kendrick had in mind when he wrote the novel. Ten blind World War II veterans at the hospital appeared as extras and advised the actors. Hollywood Reporter news items add Tod Wilmer to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. New York Times stated that Arthur Kennedy, like director Mark Robson, was "devoted to realism" and noted that Kennedy acted the role wearing contact lenses that had been dyed black. Universal-International borrowed Robson from Samuel Goldwyn for the film. Scenes were also shot on location in Northridge, CA, Florida and Philadelphia, PA.
       Cue praised the film as "one of the year's most distinguished." Reviews were mixed concerning the film's treatment of racism. Time wrote, "Not content with solving the problems of the blind hero so easily, Bright Victory is even more superficial in an over-tricky subplot that as glibly poses and solves the Negro problem." Hollywood Citizen-News commented, "Bright Victory would have been stronger, story-wise, and boast greater unity if Negro discrimination ... had not been touched upon." However, Los Angeles Times praised the film, stating, "The racial issue that arises ... is very ably depicted and is an important component of the plot." Saturday Review (of Literature) praised the acting of James Edwards, saying he "gives the role dignity and dimension." Concerning the realism of the film's hospital scenes, New York Times applauded the "fine documentation of the techniques by which blinded veterans are treated and trained at an Army hospital." The film received a number of awards and citations, including the Distinguished Service Award of the President's Committee for Employment of the Physical Handicapped and the Veteran of Foreign War's National Citation. The film received Academy Award nominations in the Best Actor (Arthur Kennedy) and Sound Recording categories.