Shining Victory (1941)

“There’s no sentiment in science, Mary — just the operation of natural laws.”

Synopsis:
A moody psychiatrist (James Stephenson) working at an asylum is at first displeased by the new assistant (Geraldine Fitzgerald) assigned to him, but gradually grows to respect and love her; meanwhile, his search for a cure to dementia leads him to take increasingly drastic measures.

Genres:

Review:
Based on the play Jupiter Laughs by A.J. Cronin, Irving Rapper’s directorial debut remains a less-than-satisfying affair on most accounts. The primary problem lies with the uneven (and ultimately uninteresting) storyline, which begins by showing us Stephenson’s unfair ouster from a Hungarian laboratory run by corrupt Professor Von Reiter (Sig Ruman), who brazenly takes credit for Stephenson’s work, then arranges to have him deported. One imagines this harrowing narrative thread will lead somewhere, but it never does — rather, it seems intended primarily to show us how put-upon poor Dr. Venner (Stephenson) has been, perhaps as an excuse for his decidedly mercurial and pigheaded attitude thereafter. Other than his Relentless Search For a Cure, the plot primarily revolves around his increasingly romantic relationship with Fitzgerald — yet this, too, proves unsatisfying; besides her appreciation for his genius (and perhaps a hint of compassion), what exactly does she see in him? Meanwhile, a pivotal subplot involving a disturbed employee (Barbara Reid) at the asylum seems like nothing more than a calculated attempt to inject a sense of psychological menace into the proceedings. Feel free to skip this one.

Note: Bette Davis purportedly appears in a brief cameo role as a nurse in this film, but I couldn’t spot her.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Geraldine Fitzgerald as Dr. Mary Murray (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • James Wong Howe’s cinematography

Must See?
No; you don’t need to bother seeking this one out.

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One Response to “Shining Victory (1941)”

  1. Not must-see – and the assessment of it here is accurate.

    It’s a fairly engaging story of personality conflict in the midst of medical research. However, at 75 minutes (and as suggested), the storyline is uneven. I don’t have difficulty understanding what Fitzgerald’s character sees in Stephenson’s: on some level, she senses a sort of wounded puppy under his defensiveness – esp. when he lets down his guard to her. But the story does go soft on its focus. And it seems inappropriate when things take a very melodramatic turn at the near-end, due to Reid’s character’s suddenly perplexing turn.

    Also, the film’s last shot seems a bit much – almost an excuse to, somehow, make sure the film’s not-exactly-fitting title gets in there somewhere.

    While it holds interesting elements, film fanatics needn’t make a point of seeing it.

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