Bright Victory (1951): WWII Drama, Starring Arthur Kennedy in Oscar Nominated Performance

In Bright Victory, Arthur Kennedy received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for playing Larry Nevins, a blinded WWII veteran struggling to adjust to his affliction.

Refusing to lapse into pathos or sentimentality, Bright Victory is a powerful, realistic, and ultimately inspirational film.  Adapted by Robert Buckner from Baynard Kendrick’s novel Lights Out, the film is well directed by Mark Robson.

In the long, arduous process, Larry must overcome his attitude towards any problem he can’t think his way out of and must also learn to temper his own prejudices, which come to the surface because of his disability.

Peggy Dow plays the patient but strong woman who loves Larry, willing to be harsh and cruel to him when he’s down and feels sorry for himself.

Kennedy’s creditable performance won him the Best Actor Award from the New York Critics Circle, but not the Oscar.  This was Kennedy’s first and only lead Oscar nomination, but he was nominated multiple times in the supporting actor league.

During World War II, Sergeant Larry is blinded by a German sniper while fighting in North Africa. He is taken to a hospital for other blinded soldiers, where he struggles to come to terms with his new disability.

His commander has to force him to call his mother and tells her he’s blind, which he does—after great struggle.

Larry begins to adapt physically, but the difficulty of forging relationships without recognizing his companion’s race or age or appearance creates new problems.

He befriends Joe Morgan, another blinded veteran, and Judy, a bank teller in town.

Unaware that Joe is black, Larry utters a racial slur, which causes a huge rift between him and others. Meanwhile, he progresses well in his recovery, passing a crucial test to see how well he can handle himself on the street, go to the bank to clear a check.

Cleared for furlough, he is taken by Judy to visit her sister and her husband in their woods cabin, and for the first time, he is able to relax, engage in small talk, play games, and even sing along.

Larry learns of a very successful lawyer who is blind, and meeting him in person gives Larry an increased hope for the future.

After dinner, Judy reveals her love for him, but Larry is hesitant, claiming that he needs more security and, besides, he already has a fiancee at home.

However, going home he has a rough time dealing with the racial attitudes of his Southern family and friends.  Moreover, his fiancee’s family is having doubts about his fitness as a son-in-law and his parents are downcast because of his disability.

Larry is happy to see his fiancee, Chris, though he still thinks of Judy. After a bad experience at his homecoming party, he tells Chris the difficulties that they can expect with his disability in a scene that recalls a similar (but better and more powerful) one in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives.

Chris eventually tells Larry that she isn’t strong enough to leave home while Larry struggles to make a new life for both of them.

Returning to the hospital, Larry takes a side trip to Philadelphia and meets the famous lawyer who had given him hope. The lawyer tells him that life is difficult but worth it and that his wife was an invaluable helper to him.

At the train station, Larry is unexpectedly reunited with Judy. They joyfully declare their mutual love.  Boarding the train, he hears Joe Morgan’s name called. He catches Joe’s arm, apologizes for all the hurt he caused and asks if they can be friends. Joe accepts the apology. They board and sit together as the train pulls out of the station.

End Note:

You can spot Rock Hudson, who was a Universal contract player, in a bit role as a soldier

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actor: Arthur Kennedy

Sound: Leslie I. Carey

 

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actor Oscar was Humphrey Bogart for “The African Queen.”

 

Credits

Running time: 96 Minutes.

Directed by Mark Robson

Screenplay: Robert Buckner, Baynard Kendrick

Released: July 31, 1951.

 

Cast

Arthur Kennedy as Larry Nevins

Peggy Dow as Judy Greene

Julie Adams as Chris Paterson

John Hudson as Corporal John Flagg

James Edwards as Joe Morgan

Nana Bryant as Mrs. Nevins

 

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