6.5/10
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6 user 2 critic

Promises in the Dark (1979)

PG | | Drama | 3 April 1980 (Australia)
Numbed by career demands and a recent divorce, Dr. Alexandra Kendall (Marsha Mason) hides behind a hard shell of professional detatchment - until she treats Buffy Koenig (Kathleen Beller), ... See full summary »

Director:

Jerome Hellman

Writer:

Loring Mandel
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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Marsha Mason ... Dr. Alexandra Kendall
Ned Beatty ... Bud Koenig
Susan Clark ... Fran Koenig
Michael Brandon ... Dr. Jim Sandman
Kathleen Beller ... Elizabeth (Buffy) Koenig
Paul Clemens ... Gerry Hulin
Donald Moffat ... Dr. Walter McInerny
Philip Sterling ... Dr. Frucht
Bonnie Bartlett ... Nurse Farber
James Noble ... Dr. Blankenship
Arthur Rosenberg Arthur Rosenberg ... Emergency Room Doctor
Peggy McCay ... Miss Pritikin
Robert Doran Robert Doran ... Alan
Lenora May ... Sue
Alexandra Johnson Alexandra Johnson ... Ellie
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Storyline

Numbed by career demands and a recent divorce, Dr. Alexandra Kendall (Marsha Mason) hides behind a hard shell of professional detatchment - until she treats Buffy Koenig (Kathleen Beller), a dying 17-year-old cancer patient who reawakens Kendall to life's possibilities. Soon the courageous girl's condition takes a downturn - and the physician must carefully, even agonizingly, weigh the consequences of keeping a promise she made to Buffy. Jerome Hellman, producer of such award-winning movies as Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home and The Mosquito Coast, makes his directorial debut on this frank, finely crafted film casting an unflinching yet compassionate eye on illness. Full of memorable performances, Promises in the Dark moves, challenges - and inspires you to live life more fully.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

cancer | See All (1) »

Taglines:

A remarkable film about the most disturbing subject of all.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 April 1980 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Obietnica ciemnosci See more »

Filming Locations:

Hartford, Connecticut, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the only film that Producer Jerome Hellman ever directed. See more »

Goofs

When Ned Beatty rushes in to put the girl on oxygen during her coughing episode. He opens the valve that controls flow from the tank to the regulator. Once that valve is open even a little the full pressure from the tank is then at the regulator. He kept going back to that valve and turning it. That would do nothing to regulate the flow of oxygen to the patient. He never touched the regulator knob which is the only way to adjust the amount of oxygen getting to the patient. Oxygen flow was not seen in the humidifier (the bottle of water at the end of the regulator). The oxygen tank was probably an empty prop tank. And the sound of oxygen flowing was probably a sound effect. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Alexandra Kendall: You are asking for yes and no answers to essay type questions
See more »

Alternate Versions

CBS edited 19 minutes from this film for its 1983 network television premiere. See more »

Soundtracks

YOU MAKE ME FEEL (MIGHTY REAL)
Written by James Wirrick (uncredited) and Sylvester (uncredited)
Performed by Sylvester
Courtesy of Fantasy Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Melodramatic, but Effective
25 October 2006 | by inspectors71See all my reviews

If you saw The Betsy (or read my review), you'll know why I was interested in seeing Promises in the Dark, way back in 1980 on HBO. Yet it wasn't Kathleen Beller's natural attributes that made this modestly soapy melodrama so effective. It was the fact that the story genuinely tries to address the issues of death and dying.

Beller is an active and normal teen who snaps her leg in some sort of trip or collision in PE at high school. The severity of the injury in relation to the activity sparks the interest of the medicos, and it's discovered she has an aggressive cancer.

Therein lies the heart of the story: The destruction of a young girl by cancer and the terrible strain her illness puts on those around her. We want Beller to survive, but I remember the movie telegraphing the end from the beginning; this kid's going to die and the movie is about how she-and we-will handle it.

There are lots of strong character actors in PITD. Marsha Mason leads the cast as Beller's Oncologist, Ned Beatty and Susan Clark are her parents, and Michael Brandon is an MD who is a balance to Mason. Yet, it's Beller's show. I don't remember her milking the pathetic angle in what could have been a "Disease of the Week" TV-movie on the big screen.

Promises in the Dark didn't make much of a stir at the box office, probably because, although well-acted, serious, and heartfelt, it had a kid slowly being smashed to pulp by cancer--a downer no matter what positive things can be said about it. But, it still stands as a legitimate and innovative counter to trash like Love Story (where anyone with two brain cells to rub together was cheering when Ali McGraw assumed room temperature).

If you can find a copy, buy it. And while you're at it, pick up the astonishingly, laughably awful The Betsy to see Beller looking much, much healthier!


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