The Picture of Dorian Gray
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Here's a cautionary tale to make you think twice about people who never seem to age or lose their youthful good looks. Our case in point is a nineteenth century aristocrat named Dorian Gray who strikes a strange bargain with the artist who paints his portrait. While Dorian remains eternally youthful and angelic in appearance, his portrait reflects his true character, one where his decadent lifestyle and acts of debauchery show up in hideous physical detail.
Probably Oscar Wilde's most famous work, The Picture of Dorian Gray had been filmed at least seven times before writer-director Albert Lewin fashioned a lavish and effectively creepy version of it for MGM. There were some minor changes to the Wilde story such as the addition of a romantic subplot involving the niece of the painter (Donna Reed) and her fiance (Peter Lawford) and some censorship restrictions that kept Dorian's unspeakable acts offscreen. But the film was an artistic success, winning three Oscar nominations including Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury in her third film, singing "Little Yellow Bird." Hurd Hatfield, in his second screen appearance, was so effectively evil in the title role that it actually handicapped his career with casting directors.
The real piece de resistance in The Picture of Dorian Gray is the hideous portrait which was painted by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright. He was hired after director Lewin saw a painting of his at the Art Institute of Chicago entitled That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. In the film, Albright created four portraits showing Dorian's gradual dissolution and, in the final scene, where Dorian's true nature is revealed on canvas, the elegant black and white cinematography suddenly bursts into Technicolor, creating a startling effect. Equally memorable is a murder scene staged beneath a wildly swinging chain lamp, an effect that would be duplicated by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho some fifteen years later.
Director: Albert Lewin
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Albert Lewin
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters
Music: Herbert Stothart
Principal Cast: Hurd Hatfield (Dorian Gray), George Sanders (Lord Wotton), Angela Lansbury (Sibyl Vane), Donna Reed (Gladys Hallward), Peter Lawford (David Stone), Lowell Gilmore (Basil Hallward), Reginald Owen (Lord George Farmoor), Miles Mander (Sir Robert Bentley).
BW & C-111m. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford