The Picture of Dorian Gray


1h 50m 1945
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Brief Synopsis

A man remains young and handsome while his portrait shows the ravages of age and sin.

Photos & Videos

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Publicity Stills
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 3, 1945
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 1 Mar 1945
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (London and New York, 1891).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White, Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

In London in 1886, Lord Henry Wotton's curiosity is aroused when his friend, artist Basil Hallward, devotes his energies to painting the portrait of a beautiful young Adonis named Dorian Gray. Lord Henry, a cynical idle aristocrat who finds pleasure in manipulating the lives of others, takes an interest in Dorian, advising him that youth is all too fleeting and that the pursuit of desire is the only real goal in life. Lord Henry's words strike a chord in Dorian, and as Basil completes his portrait, Dorian declares that he would give his soul if the painting would grow old while he remained forever young. Lord Henry then cautions Dorian about making a wish in the presence of his Egyptian cat statue, a figure capable of granting it. Inspired by Lord Henry's sentiments, Dorian begins to seek new adventures, and one day wanders into a cheap music hall where he is smitten by singer Sibyl Vane. The idealistic Sibyl addresses Dorian as "Sir Tristam," the name of a mythical, chivalrous knight. When Dorian tells Sir Henry that he plans to marry Sibyl, whom he describes as an antidote to his cynicism, Lord Henry suggests that he test her integrity by inviting her to see the portrait and then asking her to spend the night. At first, Sibyl refuses Dorian's unseemly request, but unable to displease him, agrees to his terms. Disillusioned, Dorian writes Sibyl that she has killed his love and he will never see her again. Troubled by his cruelty, Dorian glances at the portrait and notices that the face has grown hardened, a reflection of his own soul. Vowing to reform, Dorian writes a letter begging Sibyl's forgiveness. Just as he finishes it, Lord Henry arrives to inform him that Sibyl has committed suicide. When Lord Henry advises Dorian to expunge the incident from his mind, Dorian's guilt prompts him to assume an air of indifference. Basil comes to the house to reproach Dorian for his unconcern and notes that the portrait has been concealed behind a screen. After Basil leaves, Dorian decides to lock the painting in his old schoolroom amid the souvenirs of his innocent childhood. As the years pass, rumors of Dorian's changeless youth and strange debauchery intensify. Periodically, Dorian scrutinizes his portrait, which has become disfigured by his sins and his aging. The only person to whom Dorian remains vulnerable is Basil's niece Gladys, who has loved him since she was a child. Over the objections of her suitor, David Stone, Gladys impetuously decides to propose to Dorian, but he rejects her offer. One foggy night, Basil, on his way to Paris, visits Dorian to ask him to deny the unremitting rumors about his wicked ways. In response, Dorian offers to show Basil his soul and takes him to view the portrait, by now a monstrous testament to his venality. Realizing that Basil might reveal his terrible secret to Gladys, Dorian plunges a knife into his back, causing fresh blood to appear on the painting. Afterward, Dorian arranges for Allen Campbell, a chemist over whom he has a sinister hold, to dispose of Basil's body. Dorian then proposes to Gladys and she accepts. Months pass as the police search in vain for Gladys' missing uncle. Then one day, the police notify Dorian that Campbell has committed suicide. Throughout the years, Sibyl's brother, James Vane, has sought the man responsible for his sister's death, the man he knows only as "Sir Tristam." One night, in a cheap pub, Vane hears Dorian called Sir Tristam and follows him into the alley, intending to slay him. Upon discovering that Dorian is a young man, Vane thinks he is mistaken until he later learns Dorian's strange story. Vane tracks Dorian to his country estate, and while hiding behind a clump of bushes, awaiting his chance to slay Dorian, Vane is accidentally shot and killed by a hunter. Realizing that he is indirectly responsible for Vane's death, Dorian decides to break his engagement to Gladys and returns to London. Believing that by destroying his portrait he will be free of its evil spell, Dorian plunges a knife into its heart. As the knife pierces the painting, Dorian falls to the floor, mortally wounded. While Dorian fervently prays, the portrait slowly changes into the image of a beautiful young man. Soon after, Lord Henry, Gladys and David burst into the room and find the hideously disfigured body of an old man lying on the floor.

Cast

George Sanders

Lord Henry Wotton

Hurd Hatfield

Dorian Gray

Donna Reed

Gladys Hallward

Angela Lansbury

Sibyl Vane

Peter Lawford

David Stone

Lowell Gilmore

Basil Hallward

Richard Fraser

James Vane

Douglas Walton

Allen Campbell

Morton Lowry

Adrian Singleton

Miles Mander

Sir Robert Bentley

Lydia Bilbrook

Mrs. Vane

Mary Forbes

Lady Agatha

Robert Greig

Sir Thomas

Moyna Macgill

Duchess

Billy Bevan

Malvolio Jones, Chairman

Renee Carson

Young French woman

Lillian Bond

Kate

Devi Dja

Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Narrator

Reginald Owen

Lord George Farmour

Lisa Carpenter

Lady Henry Wotton

William Stack

Mr. Erskine

Natalie Draper

Mrs. Vandeleur

Anita Bolster

Lady Harborough

Arthur Shields

Street preacher

James Aubrey

Cabby

Charles Mcnaughton

Cabby

Robert Cory

Cabby

Alan Edmiston

Cabby

Harry Adams

Butler

Norman Pogson

Butler

John Valentine

Butler

Charles Coleman

Butler

Carol Diane Keppler

Gladys

Emily Massey

Parker

Sir Sydney Lawford

Davenant

Mitchell Lewis

Waiter

Frank Dawson

Waiter

Leo Mostovoy

Sandwich man

Joe Bernard

Violinist

Jimmy Conlin

Piano player

Bernard Gorcey

Stage hand

Taylor & Sinclair

Xylophone act

Colin Campbell

Shopkeeper

Joe Yule

Stage manager

Guy Bates Post

Victor

Guy Bellis

Lackey

Arthur Mulliner

Duke of Berwick

Leonard Mellin

Gentleman

Craufurd Kent

Friend

Evan Thomas

Club member

Toby Doolan

Club member

Charles K. French

Club member

Eric Mayne

Club member

Major Sam Harris

Club member

William Holmes

Club member

Hugh Greenwood

Club member

Scott Seaton

Club member

Dick Earle

Club member

J. C. Fowler

Club member

Herbert Evans

Club member

Lillian Talbot

Mayfair hostess

James Logan

Jewel merchant

John Good

Jewel merchant

Pedro De Cordoba

Old pianist

Pedro Regas

Barkeeper

John George

Hunchback

Skelton Knaggs

Assistant barkeeper

Tom Pilkington

Ant man

Kay Medford

Girl

Helena Benda

Queen

Tom Tamarez

King

Jerome St. John

Prince

Larry Williams

Policeman

Frederic Worlock

Francis

Anne Curson

Lady Gwendolyn Rugby

Renie Riano

Lady Ruxton

Audrey Manners

Lady Alice Goodbody

Rex Evans

Lord Gerald Goodbody

Edward Cooper

Ernest Harrowden

Kenneth Hunter

Sir Geoffrey Clouston

Lumsden Hare

Thornton

Gibson Gowland

David's driver

Lee Powell

Station master

Betty Fairfax

Housekeeper

Harry Allen

Farmer

Lotus Thompson

Maid

Glenna Kendall

Maid

Alice Keating

Maid

Margaret Roberts

Maid

T. Arthur Hughes

Patron

Al Ferguson

Patron

Bruce Carruthers

Patron

George Broughton

Patron

William Eddritt

Patron

Ila Lee

Patron

Doris Stone

Patron

Herberta Williams

Patron

Ann Lundeen

Beautiful young woman

Helen O'hara

Beautiful young woman

Reginald Simpson

Doorman

Ruby Newport

Flirting girl

Charles Knight

Footman

William O'brien

Footman

Wilson Benge

Footman

Sam Simone

Footman

Carl Leviness

Footman

Walter Rode

Footman

Tom Costello

Footman

Art Berry Sr.

Footman

Joseph Marievsky

Footman

Alex Pollard

Footman

Ray Flynn

Footman

Frank Mcclure

Footman

Leslie Sketchley

Footman

Eddie Aquilian

Beater

Buck Bucko

Beater

Pascale Perry

Beater

Alan Schute

Hunter/Member of London club

Fred Aldrich

Hunter

Whitey Sacks

Hunter

Stuart Holmes

Hunter

Donald Kerr

Hunter

Wally Dean

Hunter

George Jenner

Loader

Larry Stanton

Loader

Bud Harrison

Loader

Mike Jeffries

Loader

Lee Powell

Loader

Bill Patton

Loader

Frank Pharr

Loader

Paul De Corday

Dorian's friend

Oliver Cross

Member London club

Ward Carson

Member London club

Bob Maclean

Member London club

Jack Lee

Member London club

Mary Benoit

Guest at Mayfair tea

Volta Boyer

Guest at Mayfair tea

Elyse Brown

Guest at Mayfair tea

Monica Bannister

Guest at Mayfair tea

Olive Jones

Guest at Mayfair tea

Richard Collin

Guest at Mayfair tea

Kerry Vaughn

Guest at Mayfair tea

George Peters

Sailor

Dorothy Ford

Barbara Woodell

Lorraine Miller

Lloyd Ford

Crew

Pop Arnold

Crew

Mel Ballerino

Casting Director

Edward Baravalle

Music mixer

Lew Barnes

Sound

Pandro S. Berman

Producer

John Bonar

Associate (Sets)

Dick Borland

Crew

William Cary

Crew

Frank Caston

Crew

Earl Cates

Music mixer

Frédéric Chopin

Composer

Alberto Colombo

Music Department

Murray Cutter

Music Department

Eddie Davis

Assistant Camera

Mark Davis

Matte paintings, Camera

Jack Dawn

Makeup created by

William R. Edmondson

Unit mixer

Cedric Gibbons

Art Director

A. Arnold Gillespie

Transparency projection shots

Don Hall

Assistant film Editor

William Hargreaves

Composer

"duckie" Hendrickson

Crew

Ted Hoffman

Sound

Elmer Holtz

Crew

Hugh Hunt

Associate (Sets)

Irene

Costume Supervisor

Les Johnson

Crew

Harry Kearley

Crew

Joe Keener

Crew

Marion Herwood Keyes

Associate

Rudolph G. Kopp

Music Department

Ethel La Blanche

Crew

Ivan Le Lorraine Albright

Paintings of Dorian Gray

Sam Leavitt

2nd Camera

Albert Lewin

Screenwriter

Frank B. Mackenzie

Re-rec and Effects mixer

Earl Mcevoy

Assistant Director

M. J. Mclaughlin

Music mixer

Henrique Medina

Paintings of Dorian Gray as a young man

Bob Meeker

Crew

C. W. Murphy

Composer

Frank Myers

2d Assistant Director

Warren Newcombe

Matte paintings

Dan O'brien

Composer

Tony Ordoqui

Crew

Hans Peters

Art Director

Viola Pettit

Research

C. A. Philbrick

Gaffer

Frank Phillips

Assistant Camera

Bernard Ponedel

Crew

Irving Richall

Crew

Rose Rockne

Crew

Jack Rohan

Crew

Bill Shaw

Crew

Douglas Shearer

Recording Director

Robert W. Shirley

Re-rec and Effects mixer

Magdaline Simone

Music Department

Newell Sparks

Re-rec and Effects mixer

William Steinkamp

Re-rec and Effects mixer

Michael Steinore

Re-rec and Effects mixer

Herbert Stothart

Music Score

Harry Stradling

Director of Photography

Valles

Men's Costume

Ferris Webster

Film Editor

Keith Weeks

Unit Manager

Jack Wetzel

Crew

Gordon Wiles

Special Assistant to Mr. Lewin

Pasquale Williams

Crew

Edwin B. Willis

Set Decoration

Photo Collections

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), starring George Sanders and Hurd Hatfield. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken during the making of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).

Videos

Movie Clip

Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) - Look at Yourself Still from the opening scene, Lord Henry (George Sanders) dropping in on painter Basil (Lowell Gilmore) and his handsome model (Hurd Hatfield, title character), young Gladys (Carol Diane Keppler) inspiring a fateful wish and the first color insert, in The Picture Of Dorian Gray, 1945.
Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) - This Curious Cat Secretly degenerate Dorian (Hurd Hatfield) explains about the cat and would-be protege Sybil (Angela Lansbury) makes a choice that will disappoint him, in writer-director Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945, from the Oscar Wilde story.
Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) - Opening, Lord Henry Opening sequence and the introductory narration from Lord Henry (George Sanders), the de facto voice of author Oscar Wilde, in director Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945, starring Hurd Hatfield.
Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) - Sibyl Vane London, 1886, Dorian discovers entertainer Sibyl Vane (Hurd Hatfield and Angela Lansbury, who became lifelong friends), performing "Goodbye Little Yellow Bird," at The Two Turtles in The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945, from the Oscar Wilde novel.
Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) - Moral Leprosy The big reveal (technically a "spoiler") in writer-director Albert Lewin's treatment of Oscar Wilde's famous story, Dorian (Hurd Hatfield) shows artist Basil (Lowell Gilmore) the degeneration of his painting, George Sanders narrating, in The Picture Of Dorian Gray, 1945.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 3, 1945
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 1 Mar 1945
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (London and New York, 1891).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White, Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Award Wins

Best Cinematography

1945
Harry Stradling Sr.

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1945

Best Supporting Actress

1945
Angela Lansbury

Articles

The Picture of Dorian Gray


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
The Picture Of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

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

The Picture of Dorian Gray - The Oscar®-Nominated 1945 Version is Finally on DVD


The Picture of Dorian Gray is, for the purposes of classification, a bit of a "tweener." The 1945 Metro Goldwyn Mayer production is a puzzler for classic film fans due to its grim proceedings and cold fish casting of Hurd Hatfield in the title role, while the icy deliberateness of its storytelling and a low body count fail to slake the blood thirst of horror movie fans. Despite being what one might call neither fish nor foul, the The Picture of Dorian Gray was a considerable success in its day, serving as both a showcase for top-billed George Sanders (who actually plays a supporting role) and a launching pad for both starlet Donna Reed (relatively early in her career, with Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life just around the corner) and British actress Angela Lansbury, who sat out the Blitz in Hollywood as a reliable (and Oscar® nominated) second female lead. Nonetheless, the handsome and passionately directed feature is rarely discussed these days on its own terms. Acquired by Turner Entertainment with the acquisition of MGM's pre-1986 catalogue, The Picture of Dorian Gray received occasional TV broadcasts in the 90s. A sell-through VHS tape was made available in 2001 (roughly twenty years into the video revolution) and only now, seven years later, is there a DVD. This seeming hesitancy on the part of rights holder Time Warner speaks volumes about a corporate-minded diffidence to their own library. As Dorian Gray himself might tell you, growing old is a bitch.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was a pet project for producer-director Albert Lewin. Lewin directed but six features yet his credits as a screenwriter stretch from the silent era to episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. A former English professor at the University of Missouri, Lewin broke into film as a reader for Samuel Goldwyn and worked his way up to the position of writer by 1924. The gestation period for his $2 million adaptation of Oscar Wilde's scandalous 1890 was slow; between being cast and filming her scenes, Angela Lansbury squeezed in roles in both Gaslight (1944) and National Velvet (1944). Early contenders for the pivotal role of Wilde surrogate Lord Henry Wotton were Basil Rathbone (an MGM contractee on loan to Universal for the Sherlock Holmes series) and Laird Cregar (who passed away before the film's premiere) before settling on Sanders, whose dry line readings and comportment of self-amusement made him the ideal candidate. Changing Wilde's conception of Dorian Gray considerably, Lewin handpicked Hollywood newbie Hurd Hatfield, whose only film role had been a small one in Dragonseed (1944). By all accounts, Lewin micromanaged Hatfield's every gesture (to the point of not letting the actor perform after four o'clock in the afternoon, for fear fatigue would show), resulting in a central performance that is appropriately strange but which never engages. One doesn't see what others see in this Dorian Gray, who seems as inflexible as mortician's wax even in his mysteriously protracted youth.

Its problematic central casting aside, The Picture of Dorian Gray still has much to offer. Lewin indulges in extended takes that allow his actors free range within the frame, showing off both the deep focus cinematography of Harry Stradling (who copped an Oscar® for his work) and the minutely realized (and Oscar®-nominated) art direction of Cedric Gibbons and Hans Peters. Not only is the film beautifully crafted but prophetic as well, with the emotionally stunted Dorian blazing a trail that would later be bloodied by the likes of Psycho's Norman Bates (they share a similar cobweb-strangled nursery and there is even an eerily prescient knife murder staged under a hanging lamp) and An American Psycho's Patrick Bateman (whose metrosexuality would not have been out-of-step in Victorian England). Additionally, the self-possessed Henry Wotton's slowly dawning conscience, by which he is able to appreciate that his teachings about aesthetics have inspired Dorian's diabolical disregard for others, anticipates the soul-sickening realization of James Stewart's Ivy League egghead in Rope (1948) that his teaching on intellectual superiority has bred monsters. Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's 1929 British stage play toned down the homosexual undertones of the story's teacher-student relationship but the source material feels as much inspired by Oscar Wilde as the Leopold and Loeb murder case on which it was purportedly based.

Without being the beneficiary of expensive restoration, The Picture of Dorian Gray looks good on this commemorative disc from this Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. While imperfections and blemishes in the source materials are sometimes present, the contrasts are sharp and the blacks satisfyingly deep. It's great to have the film's Technicolor inserts (for views of Ivan Albright's portraits of Dorian Gray, both before and after) back in the film, especially as those chromatics are so overwhelming and disturbingly saturated. The monaural sound is limited, to be sure, and sounds a bit on the quiet side for what is a largely subdued film, but is at least clean and noise-free. As far as supplements go, the highlight of the disc is an audio commentary shared by film historian Steve Haberman and surviving costar Angela Lansbury. Although Lansbury's character is in her grave by the film's halfway mark, Haberman proves himself a good master of ceremonies and Lansbury's insights into the making of the film are invaluable. For trivia hounds, it's revealed that Greta Garbo expressed an interest in cross-dressing to play Dorian Gray and that the pint-sized Lewin was known (derisively) as the Metro Gnome. Rounding out the roster of extras are the Oscar®-winning short Stairway to Light, the Academy Award®-winning Tom & Jerry cartoon Quiet Please!, as well a theatrical trailer.

For more information about The Picture of Dorian Gray, visit Warner Video.To order The Picture of Dorian Gray, go to TCM Shopping.

by Richard Harland Smith

The Picture of Dorian Gray - The Oscar®-Nominated 1945 Version is Finally on DVD

The Picture of Dorian Gray is, for the purposes of classification, a bit of a "tweener." The 1945 Metro Goldwyn Mayer production is a puzzler for classic film fans due to its grim proceedings and cold fish casting of Hurd Hatfield in the title role, while the icy deliberateness of its storytelling and a low body count fail to slake the blood thirst of horror movie fans. Despite being what one might call neither fish nor foul, the The Picture of Dorian Gray was a considerable success in its day, serving as both a showcase for top-billed George Sanders (who actually plays a supporting role) and a launching pad for both starlet Donna Reed (relatively early in her career, with Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life just around the corner) and British actress Angela Lansbury, who sat out the Blitz in Hollywood as a reliable (and Oscar® nominated) second female lead. Nonetheless, the handsome and passionately directed feature is rarely discussed these days on its own terms. Acquired by Turner Entertainment with the acquisition of MGM's pre-1986 catalogue, The Picture of Dorian Gray received occasional TV broadcasts in the 90s. A sell-through VHS tape was made available in 2001 (roughly twenty years into the video revolution) and only now, seven years later, is there a DVD. This seeming hesitancy on the part of rights holder Time Warner speaks volumes about a corporate-minded diffidence to their own library. As Dorian Gray himself might tell you, growing old is a bitch. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a pet project for producer-director Albert Lewin. Lewin directed but six features yet his credits as a screenwriter stretch from the silent era to episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. A former English professor at the University of Missouri, Lewin broke into film as a reader for Samuel Goldwyn and worked his way up to the position of writer by 1924. The gestation period for his $2 million adaptation of Oscar Wilde's scandalous 1890 was slow; between being cast and filming her scenes, Angela Lansbury squeezed in roles in both Gaslight (1944) and National Velvet (1944). Early contenders for the pivotal role of Wilde surrogate Lord Henry Wotton were Basil Rathbone (an MGM contractee on loan to Universal for the Sherlock Holmes series) and Laird Cregar (who passed away before the film's premiere) before settling on Sanders, whose dry line readings and comportment of self-amusement made him the ideal candidate. Changing Wilde's conception of Dorian Gray considerably, Lewin handpicked Hollywood newbie Hurd Hatfield, whose only film role had been a small one in Dragonseed (1944). By all accounts, Lewin micromanaged Hatfield's every gesture (to the point of not letting the actor perform after four o'clock in the afternoon, for fear fatigue would show), resulting in a central performance that is appropriately strange but which never engages. One doesn't see what others see in this Dorian Gray, who seems as inflexible as mortician's wax even in his mysteriously protracted youth. Its problematic central casting aside, The Picture of Dorian Gray still has much to offer. Lewin indulges in extended takes that allow his actors free range within the frame, showing off both the deep focus cinematography of Harry Stradling (who copped an Oscar® for his work) and the minutely realized (and Oscar®-nominated) art direction of Cedric Gibbons and Hans Peters. Not only is the film beautifully crafted but prophetic as well, with the emotionally stunted Dorian blazing a trail that would later be bloodied by the likes of Psycho's Norman Bates (they share a similar cobweb-strangled nursery and there is even an eerily prescient knife murder staged under a hanging lamp) and An American Psycho's Patrick Bateman (whose metrosexuality would not have been out-of-step in Victorian England). Additionally, the self-possessed Henry Wotton's slowly dawning conscience, by which he is able to appreciate that his teachings about aesthetics have inspired Dorian's diabolical disregard for others, anticipates the soul-sickening realization of James Stewart's Ivy League egghead in Rope (1948) that his teaching on intellectual superiority has bred monsters. Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's 1929 British stage play toned down the homosexual undertones of the story's teacher-student relationship but the source material feels as much inspired by Oscar Wilde as the Leopold and Loeb murder case on which it was purportedly based. Without being the beneficiary of expensive restoration, The Picture of Dorian Gray looks good on this commemorative disc from this Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. While imperfections and blemishes in the source materials are sometimes present, the contrasts are sharp and the blacks satisfyingly deep. It's great to have the film's Technicolor inserts (for views of Ivan Albright's portraits of Dorian Gray, both before and after) back in the film, especially as those chromatics are so overwhelming and disturbingly saturated. The monaural sound is limited, to be sure, and sounds a bit on the quiet side for what is a largely subdued film, but is at least clean and noise-free. As far as supplements go, the highlight of the disc is an audio commentary shared by film historian Steve Haberman and surviving costar Angela Lansbury. Although Lansbury's character is in her grave by the film's halfway mark, Haberman proves himself a good master of ceremonies and Lansbury's insights into the making of the film are invaluable. For trivia hounds, it's revealed that Greta Garbo expressed an interest in cross-dressing to play Dorian Gray and that the pint-sized Lewin was known (derisively) as the Metro Gnome. Rounding out the roster of extras are the Oscar®-winning short Stairway to Light, the Academy Award®-winning Tom & Jerry cartoon Quiet Please!, as well a theatrical trailer. For more information about The Picture of Dorian Gray, visit Warner Video.To order The Picture of Dorian Gray, go to TCM Shopping. by Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

I choose my friends carefully.
- Lord Henry Wotton
Forgive me for the intelligence of my argument; I'd forgotten that you were a Member of Parliament.
- Lord Henry Wotton
I like persons better than principles and persons with no principles better than anything at all.
- Lord Henry Wotton
It's an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.
- Lord Henry Wotton
There's only one way to get rid of temptation, and that's to yield to it.
- Lord Henry Wotton
"If I could get back my youth, I'd do anything in the world except get up early, take exercise or be respectable."
- Lord Henry Wotton

Trivia

The movie is black and white except for four times when Dorian Gray's picture is shown in color.

Ivan Albright's famous painting of the decayed Dorian Gray - which took approximately one year to complete - is now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. Albright's twin brother Malvin, better known as a sculptor, was also commissioned to create paintings for the film, although his work went unused.

The blocks under the table in Dorian's school room have the initials of the people who die.

Notes

Oscar Wilde's novel was first published in Lippincott's Lovely Magazine in July 1890. The following written verse from The Rubáiyát by Omar Khayyám opens and closes the film: "I sent my soul through the invisible, Some letter of that after-life to spell; And by and by my soul returned to me, And answered, "I myself am Heaven and Hell." In the picture, four scenes displaying Dorian's portrait are in color, the rest of the film is in black and white. Actress Renee Carson's name is misspelled in the onscreen credits as "Renie Carson."
       Hollywood Reporter news items yield the following information about this production: Basil Rathbone and Herbert Marshall were first considered for the role of "Lord Henry Wotton." News items from 1943 add that Michael Dyne, Kenneth Donner, John Good and Robert Alton, Jr. were tested for the lead role. Although a November 1943 news item places June Lockhart in the cast, she does not appear in the released film. Other news items list Henry Burgess and Betsy Stoddard in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Moyna MacGill, who played the "Duchess," was Angela Lansbury's mother in real life.
       According to modern sources, director Albert Lewin admired the work of painter Ivan Le Lorraine Albright and so commissioned him to paint four portraits showing the stages of Dorian's dissolution. Albright, who arrived in Los Angeles with his twin brother Malvin, also a painter, was paid $75,000 for the rights to the paintings. It is unclear whether Malvin helped his brother with the project. After creating the portrait of the ravaged Dorian, Albright fell behind and did not have time to complete the others. The studio then hired Henrique Medina to paint the picture of the young Dorian. According to M-G-M publicity items contained in the AMPAS Library, the statue of the Egyptian cat goddess in Dorian's living room was cast from the original in the St. Louis Art Museum. A modern source adds that Lewin created the character of "David Stone" so that the picture would have a happy ending.
       The film received an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography and was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury), Best Art Direction and Best Set Direction. Among the many other adaptations of Oscar Wilde's novel are a 1910 Danish film; a 1913 New York Motion Picture Company two reeler, directed by M. Moore and starring Harris Gordon and Ernest Howard; and a 1970 international co-production titled Dorian Gray, directed by Massimo Dallamano and starring Helmut Berger and Richard Todd. On May 21, 1928, a play based on Wilde's novel titled Dorian Gray, directed by Augustus Thoren and starring Howard Cull and Lionel Adams opened in New York. Television versions include a December 6, 1961 CBS broadcast, directed by Paul Bogart and starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke and John Fraser, and a April 23, 1973 ABC version, directed by Glen Jordan and starring Shane Briant and Nigel Davenport.