Bright Victory (1951)
Directed by Mark Robson (Peyton Place (1957)) this film provides a contrast to Dark Victory (1939) in that the lead character starts out being blinded and though he doesn’t regain his sight he learns to adjust. Arthur Kennedy (Champion (1949)) like Bette Davis (in DV) was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar as was this film’s Sound (Leslie Carey’s first Academy recognition). Robert Buckner (Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)) wrote the screenplay.
Set during World War II Arthur Kennedy plays Larry Nevins a Southerner soldier from Seminola FL working in an artillery communications unit. When he and two others from his unit (including Rock Hudson) go to repair a failed transmitter Nevins is shot through the temple by an enemy sniper and is blinded. He returns to the States to the Valley Forge Hospital in Phoenixville PA which specializes in rehabilitating sightless veterans. Though initially he attempts suicide he is assisted by Corporal Flagg (John Hudson) who aids his adjustment to his condition by teaching him how to function. Larry also learns that he has a special skill the ability to sense objects in front of him which not all blind people have.
Larry literally bumps into another blind soldier Joe Morgan (James Edwards) and they become fast friends. The two friends swim bowl and otherwise hangout together with the other men in the hospital similarly affected (Richard Egan Murray Hamilton and Jerry Paris are recognizable). He also meets & spends time with Judy Greene (Peggy Dow) a nice local young woman who befriends him. But when Larry hears there are (racial N-word in lieu of) Negroes coming to the hospital his slur is heard by the others including Joe who is Black. This negatively affects Larry’s relationship with Joe and everyone else who cold shoulder him from then on. With Masterson’s help Larry passes an important field test in the city to certify that he’s ready for a furlough and to graduate to the advanced school in Avon. Masterson also makes Larry think about the fact that for the rest of his life he’ll encounter people without knowing their race religion etc. unless & until he asks them.
Two days before he leaves on his month long furlough home Judy who’s parents are deceased takes Larry to her only family her sister’s house. Joan Banks plays Judy’s sister Jim Backus plays her brother in law Bill. Bill’s a lawyer and he tells Larry about another lawyer he competes against and loses to that’s also blind. Larry also learns that Judy has fallen in love with him but he has a girl Chris (Julie Adams) back home which she knew about already. He tells Judy that though it’s been 3 years since he’s seen Chris what he needs most is security and of the plans Chris and he had made before he left to go overseas. Judy is heartbroken and Larry returns home.
Before Larry arrives in Seminola we learn that Chris’s father (Minor Watson) is not too keen on the idea of the two young lovers getting married now that Larry’s blind. And Larry learns that there is just as much of an adjustment for everyone else in town including his parents (Will Geer & Nana Bryant) as there is for himself given his condition. Larry is shocked to hear how his mother speaks of their departed maid a Negro and upsets her when he points it out.
*** SPOILERS ***
Ultimately things do not work out between Chris and Larry (and there’s a scene reminiscent of Fatal Attraction (1987) with Larry turning on and off a lamp in the dark) and he returns to Phoenixville on his way to Avon. Bill introduces him to his blind lawyer friend who’s profession now interests Larry and the lawyer tells Larry of the importance of a sighted companion like his wife. Judy meets Larry’s departing train where they swear their love for each other and briefly make plans for their future together. Finally Larry runs into Joe Morgan who happens to be on the same train to Avon and the two have a reconciliation as the train departs and the film ends.