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151. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, 1945

An unforgettable and thought provoking supernatural thriller

Angela Lansbury and Hurd Hatfield in a scene in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Like a gourmet meal, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” blends the finest ingredients to conjure a hearty, fully satisfying, and unforgettable experience. It mixes a consummate cast, an eerie atmosphere, spellbinding visuals, luxurious sets, and a first-rate script for a deliciously gripping, ultra-intriguing, and sometimes jolting, masterpiece. A critical success that was nominated for three Academy Awards (with one win), it has become a certified classic, even finding its way decades later onto the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Most Thrilling American Films of All-Time at number 86. This film is so stirring, it’s one of just a handful of movies my father insisted my sister and I watch with him when we were kids, and I’ve loved it ever since.


Lowell Gilmore and George Sanders discuss his painting in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

London, 1886. The devilishly wicked “Lord Henry Wotton” visits his friend, artist “Basil Hallward”, to find out why he’s been so secretive about his latest painting. It’s a portrait of a man which “Henry” says is the best thing he’s ever painted, adding “Of course, I can’t believe that anyone is really as handsome as that portrait”. “Basil” explains that it’s of the young and good-looking aristocrat “Dorian Gray”, and confides that there’s something unusual about the painting, “something I can't quite understand, something mystic about it... I don't know how to explain it, but whenever ‘Dorian’ poses for me it seems as if a power outside myself were guiding my hand. It's as if the painting had a life of its own, independent of me”.


Hurd Hatfield sells his soul for eternal youth in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

“Dorian” soon appears, looking just as angelic and youthful as his portrait, and the gleefully fiendish “Henry” sternly reminds him how the portrait will remain young while he will get old and gray. He urges “Dorian” to live life fully, without regret, and solely for pleasure while he’s still young, ultimately telling him: “It would be tragic if you realized too late, as so many others do, that there is only one thing in the world worth having, and that is youth”. Spellbound by “Henry’s” words, “Dorian” stares at his portrait and says, "As I grow old, this picture will remain always young. If it were only the other way. If it were I who was always to be young and the picture that was to grow old… For that I would give everything. Yes, there's nothing in the whole world I would not give. I'd give my soul for that”. And he does.


Hurd Hatfield looks at his portrait in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

And thus, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” follows the eternally young “Dorian” as he lives for pleasure, indulges in his darkest desires, frequents the underbelly of London, and falls in love with a young unsullied singer named “Sibyl” while leaving a mess of destruction in his wake. This provocative horror/thriller provides ultra-stimulating, almost profound reflections about youth, vanity, one’s conscience, the damage we do to our souls, how all of us have both good and evil within, the consequences of our actions, and how living without consequences erodes one's soul. It’s an entertaining smorgasbord of astute insight into human nature.


Hurd Hatfield sees a dead body in the barn in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Portrait photo of playwright, writer, poet, gay icon homosexual Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde

The film is based on a story by brilliant poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. It first appeared in novella-length in a 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, and was considered scandalous for its criticism of the morals and principals of Victorian society, hedonism, and allusions to homosexuality. Wilde expanded and revised his story, removing some of the overt decadence and homosexuality, and published it as a 1891 novel. The magazine version in particular was later used against Wilde during his infamous trial, when he was charged with gross indecency for homosexual acts, which ended with his imprisonment and decline. After Wilde’s death, the novel became more and more popular, emerging as a literary classic.


Donna Reed gets bad new as Peter Lawford and George Sanders look on in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Among the many people bewitched by this novel was Albert Lewin, a professor of English, and when he decided to switch careers and go into the film business, his biggest wish was to make a film version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray”. It took him years, but Lewin’s dream eventually came true, and he wrote and directed this film. Lewin skillfully made some minor story changes, added supporting characters and other cinematic elements to provide richness and emotion and drive home Wilde’s themes cinematically. Because he had such an affinity for Wilde’s novel and wanted to stay as faithful to its essence as possible, Lewin oversaw every aspect of this film from its script and direction to the sets, and even the jewelry worn by the actors. He wanted every actor to say their lines the way he heard them in his head, showing them how to say them, famously doing retake after retake until he got exactly what he wanted. He was that precious about this material.


George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, and Lowell Gilmore discuss male youth and beauty in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The world inside a movie is created by a team of people and departments, all led by the vision of the director, and Lewin does an astounding job shaping a foreboding Victorian England with all its grandeur and depravity, while managing to retain Wilde’s wit and insights. One smart way he accomplishes this is with the use of narration. The narration (voiced by distinguished English actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke) flows so naturally, it feels like a character in the story and gives voice to the complex ideas and flavor of the novel. Lewin also took much of the clever and profound dialogue straight from Wilde’s writing (lines like “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it” or "I like persons better than principals and persons with no principals better than anything else in the world”), making sure that it's still very much Wilde’s story.


George Sanders reads Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Lewin brings it all to life with countlessly impressive shots that are not only stunning, but also riddled with symbolism (there’s so much that I still can't catch it all), beginning with the opening scene of “Henry” riding in a horse drawn carriage reading a book while the narrator speaks and we see the shadow of the carriage driver though the window. “Henry” happens to be reading "Les Fleurs du mal" (“The Flowers of Evil”, a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire), and this entire shot sets up “Henry’s” character through symbolism and narration via a dazzling visual.


Lowell Gimore wants to pray with a cross in the background in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The film’s symbolism isn’t limited to book titles, but can also be found in strategically chosen and placed props filling the background of a shot, such as masks, statues, figures, taxidermy animal heads, an ancient Egyptian sculpture of a cat (seen in the fore or background of many shots and is vital to the story), or a child’s ABC blocks that mysteriously change to mirror the initial’s of “Dorian’s” latest victims. Lewin also uses lighting to emphasize symbols, such turning a window frame into a cross when “Basil” mentions prayer, or in one of the film’s most famous shots, have a swinging lamp continuously light and shade “Dorian”, underscoring the good and evil inside him. Of course one doesn’t have to uncover or understand all this symbolism to enjoy this exceptional film, it just makes it that much more intriguing.


Lowell Gilmore, Hurd Hatfield, and George Sanders watch Angela Lansbury sing in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Lewin also kept“The Picture of Dorian Gray’s” hinted at homosexuality as best he could, given the rules set forth by the Motion Picture Production Code (see my “Red Dust” post for more on that), with a gay subtext circling “Dorian”, “Henry”, and “Basil”, with their talk of male beauty, “Henry’s” seductive control over “Dorian”, “Basil’s” obvious yet unstated love for “Dorian” (which is clearer in Wilde’s story), and hints at “Dorian’s” bisexuality. In the 2014 DVD commentary of the film, film historian Steve Haberman said the married, homosexual Wilde said “Dorian” was who Wilde wanted to be, “Henry” was who people thought he was, and “Basil” was who he actually was.


Angela Lansbury gets devastating news in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Another inspired aspect of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is how, except for two instances, we don’t actually witness any of “Dorian’s” sins. Instead we hear about them, see hints of them, and in a brilliant way (which I won’t spoil), see the results of their effects. Haberman also remarked that Wilde intended it that way, saying, “The sins that ‘Dorian’ commits are the sins you bring to him”. This heightens the horror and mystery, letting our imaginations fill-in the details of the story. What a brilliant device that Lewin magnificently cinematically accentuates through shady characters, ominous atmospheres, and intimidating sets. Lewin’s meticulous direction is ingeniously entertaining.


Arthur Shields talks about the human soul as Hurd Hatfield arrives in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrit photo of Hollywood film director writer producer Albert Lewin
Albert Lewin

After earning a masters degree at Harvard University, teaching English at the University of Missouri, and then serving in the military during World War I, Brooklyn-born Albert Lewin happened to see a screening of the 1920 German Expressionist silent film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", which changed his life and drove the intellectual to give up his livelihood and pursue a film career. He began as a reader for Goldwyn Pictures, which was bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1924, where Lewin worked as a screenwriter, and became head of the studio's script department. Later in the decade, he became assistant to MGM's boy wonder, head of production Irving Thalberg, and worked as producer or associate producer on such films as "The Kiss", "Red-Headed Woman", "Mutiny of the Bounty" and "The Good Earth". After Thalberg's death in 1936, Lewin produced movies at Paramount Studios before leaving to write and direct films, starting with his 1942 film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel "The Moon and Sixpence". "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was his second film. He wrote and directed just six films (his final being 1957's "The Living Idol”) before suffering a heart attack and retiring. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is widely considered his greatest film. Also revered is his 1951 film "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman", now a cult classic. He was married once, for over forty years, until his wife's death. Albert Lewin died in 1968 at the age of 73.


Someone gets shot at a hunting trip as Hurd Hatfield watches in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer had a lot of faith in Lewin, and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was to be MGM’s prestige picture of the year (a prestige film is one produced to earn a studio artistic respect, not made with the intention of making a lot of money). This film was much darker and more expressionistic than MGM’s usual fare of sophisticated glamour, but Mayer and the film’s producer (the great Pandro S. Berman, who you can read about in my “Top Hat” post) were behind it enough to allow Lewin to go way over budget and schedule.


Donna Reed, George Sanders, Lisa Carpenter, Rex Evans, Hurd Hatfield, Peter Lawford, Audrey Manners, and Anita Sharp-Bolster have dinner in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

MGM was the king of the studios at the time and had all the resources, manpower, and money to make such a lavish film as this. It had a stable of hundreds of contracted actors from which to cast everyone from leads to bit players, an in-house composer to score the film (Herbert Stothart, one of the greats), individual departments that each focused on a single aspect of the film such as costumes (headed by top Hollywood costume designer Irene), hair, makeup, and set construction, and even chefs on hand to make the food for the film's many dining scenes.


Lowell Gilmore and Hurd Hatfield in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

A special mention must be made about the film’s jaw-dropping art direction by Hans Peters, overseen by department head Cedric Gibbons, with interior decoration by Edwin B. Willis, Hugh Hunt, and John Bonar – all of whom shared a Best Art Direction Academy Award nomination for their work. Lewin wanted to stay true to Victorian times, so all of the furniture was authentic. If MGM didn’t already own what was needed in their storeroom, antiques were rented or bought to be used in this film. Even the menu items they cooked were authentic to the period.


Lowell Gilmore and George Sanders in the garden in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Early portrait of young Hollywood cinematographer Harry Stradling Sr.
Harry Stradling

Lewin may have had the vision, but his cinematographer, Harry Stradling, brought his expertise at framing, lighting, and lenses to best capture it. Stradling knew which lenses to use to keep what he wanted in and out of focus, how to best pick up shadows, get crisp closeups, and create any atmosphere needed for each scene. And his work is nothing short of extraordinary. The film has many breathtaking shots with layers of action happening simultaneously in the fore, middle, and background, sometimes through doors or hallways. His lighting and camera work is incredibly moody and evocative, and gives the film its dark and eerie ambiance. Actress Angela Lansbury (who plays “Sibyl” in the film) said, “I’ve never been photographed as well as I was in that movie by the great Harry Stradling, who of course, in his day was it. He was amazing”. I personally think “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is one of the most visually spellbinding and just plain gorgeous films ever made.


Hurd Hatfield plays the piano as a shadow approaches on the floor in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
“The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Stradling won the film’s only Academy Award (for Best Cinematography). It was the first of two Oscars he'd win in his legendary career (his second was for "My Fair Lady"), out of fourteen nominations. Recognized as one of the greatest cinematographers of all-time, Stradling shot nearly 150 films, including many of filmdom's most beautiful, such as "Hans Christian Andersen", "Suspicion", "Intermezzo", "A Face in the Crowd", "Funny Girl”, "Streetcar Named Desire" and "Johnny Guitar”, and you can read more about the life and career of Harry Stradling in my posts on the latter two. Just click on the film titles to open those posts.


George Sanders stars as a likeable cad in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait photo of young English Hollywood fil actor movie star young George Sanders
George Sanders

Rounding out the illustrious talent pool that makes this film so outstanding is its phenomenal cast of actors. Everyone in this film is perfectly cast, from the faces of the extras sitting at tables in the background, to the principal and leading players. They all contribute to making this world feel real. And that certainly includes George Sanders, who is top billed as “Lord Henry Wotton”, a chauvinistic, cynical, philosophical, devilish, bored, yet likable troublemaker. “Henry” is the first face we see in the film as the narrator expounds: “'Lord Henry Wotton' had set himself early in life to the serious study of the great aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing. He lived only for pleasure. But his greatest pleasure was to observe the emotions of his friends while experiencing none of his own. He diverted himself by exercising subtle influence on the lives of others”. For a man who shows little if any feeling, Sanders makes “Henry” appealingly amusing. His unique affected upperclass quality, as well as his expertise at playing sardonic cads fit Wilde’s words like a glove. As a result, the dialogue rolls off "Henry's"’ tongue with the greatest of ease and a delightful richness. It is certainly one of this gifted actor’s best performances.


George Sanders stars in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait photo of young English Hollywood fil actor movie star young George Sanders with head on hands
George Sanders

After briefly appearing in British films beginning in 1936, George Sanders made his way to Hollywood, and by the end of the decade was playing prominent supporting roles in major films as well as starring roles in B movies. He could portray acerbically charming villains like no one else, and the 1940s turned out to be the decade that contained the bulk of his greatest and most interesting films and parts, with "The Picture of Dorian Gray” high on the list. Others in that decade include “Rebecca”, “Foreign Correspondent”, "Man Hunt""The Black Swan", "Tales of Manhattan", "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, plus two more directed by Lewin, “The Moon and Sixpence” and “The Private Affairs of Bel Ami”. He rounded out the decade with another of his quintessential roles as a wickedly likable villain in 1950's "All About Eve” (which won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Fittingly, Sanders titled his enjoyable 1960 autobiography, "Memoirs of a Professional Cad". You can read more about the life and career of the very talented and interesting George Sanders in my post on “Rebecca”, and a bit more in “All About Eve”.


Hurd Hatfield plays the title role in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait photo of Hollywood, Broadway  and television TV actor, movie star young Hurd Hatfield
Hurd Hatfield

Many film directors say casting is everything, and after looking high and low for an actor to play "Dorian", auditioning countless blonde-haired blue-eyed actors (Wilde's description of "Dorian" in his book), Lewin stumbled on Hurd Hatfield. Hatfield does an excellent job playing a man who the narrator describes as always having “the look of one who had kept himself unspoiled from the world”. The MGM hair and makeup department helped Hatfield get the look of perfection, and to maintain it, Lewin wouldn’t allow Hatfield to show any emotion at all. He wanted Hatfield to keep his face absolutely still as if it were a mask, telling him exactly how to move his mouth, head and so on, reshooting if he emoted. Fearing Hatfield would look tired, Lewin stopped filming Hatfield’s scenes at 4pm each day, mostly filming closeups in the mornings and long shots later in the day. Even though it was somewhat like acting in a straightjacket, Hatfield manages to show “Dorian’s” emotions through his eyes, such as the wonder he feels when first seeing his portrait, being overcome with love when he first hears "Sibyl" sing, or his terror and hatred with "Basil" in the attic. It’s the kind of subtle performance that is best appreciated on a big screen in a dark movie theater. The role brought Hatfield fame and wonderful reviews, but he could never quite shake off the cold indelible image he created as "Dorian", and though stardom would seem inevitable, it sadly never quite came. He felt this film was a blessing and a curse to his career.


Hurd Hatfield stars in the title role in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait photo of Hollywood, Broadway  and television TV actor, movie star young Hurd Hatfield
Hurd Hatfield

After college, New York City-born Hurd Hatfield moved to England to study acting, joined Michael Chekhov's Dartington Hall acting company, and took to the stage. He returned to New York and made his Broadway debut in a 1941 production of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", and made his film debut in a supporting role opposite Katharine Hepburn in 1944's "Dragon Seed". "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was Hatfield's second film, followed by a few hits such as "The Diary of a Chambermaid" and "The Unsuspected”. His film career began losing steam with 1948's unsuccessful "Joan of Arc", after which he returned to Broadway while also working on television. Hatfield appeared in approximately a dozen films, and others include "The Left Handed Gun", "El Cid”, "The Boston Strangler”, "King of Kings", and "Crimes of the Heart". His nearly 60 television appearances include guest spots on "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", "Knight Rider”, three episodes of "Murder, She Wrote”, and the 1963 TV movie "Invincible Mr. Disraeli", which earned him a Best Supporting Emmy Award nomination. Hatfield’s final performance was in the 1991 TV movie, "Lies of the Twins". He never married, and it was an open secret in Hollywood that he was gay. Hurd Hatfield died in 1998 at the age of 81.


Donna Reed in a hat starrring in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Portrait of Dorian Gray"

Portrait photo of young Hollywood film actress movie and TV star girl next door Donna Reed
Donna Reed

Donna Reed plays the grown-up “Gladys Hallward”, “Basil’s” niece who has loved “Dorian” ever since she was a child. Having fallen under his spell and not believing the rumors, “Gladys” claims, “There’s no evil in ‘Dorian’. Anybody can see that by looking at him”, and Reed has such warmth, kindness, and strength, we feel for this woman. Reed originally thought she was going to play "Sibyl Vane" in the film, and evidently was very unhappy playing “Gladys”. Reed's singing voice is dubbed when “Gladys” reprises a line or two of the song "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird”.



Hurd Hatfield gives Donna Reed a necklace in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Glamour portrait of Hollywood movie star TV icon actress Donna Reed in gown and diamond necklace
Donna Reed

By the time of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", the beautiful Donna Reed was an establish ingenue, having signed with MGM in 1941, making her film debut that same year. By "The Picture of Dorian Gray", she’d already appeared in a dozen and a half films, and was now a leading lady and a star known for her wholesome good looks who played good girls, earning her a reputation as the quintessential girl next door. She was also a popular pin-up during World War II. A little more than a decade after "The Portrait of Dorian Gray", Reed became a major star and television icon with her own very popular TV series "The Donna Reed Show” beginning in 1958. You can read more about the life and career of Donna Reed in my previous posts on "It's a Wonderful Life" and "From Here to Eternity”. Be sure to check them out.


Angela Lansbury sheds a tear in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait phot of young Hollywood movie star, Broadway and television acress Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury

In a truly superb performance, Angela Lansbury plays “Sibyl Vane”, a young tavern singer who falls in love with “Dorian”. "Sibyl's" mother may want her to break class boundaries and move up in the world by marrying “Dorian”, but "Sibyl" wants “Dorian” purely out of love. She is trusting and a true innocent, and Lansbury fills this symbol of total goodness with overwhelming vulnerability, making her completely, sympathetically human. Beautifully underplayed, Lansbury keeps her emotions raging under the surface, whether becoming smitten with “Dorian” while singing "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird”, or the powerful scene when we can feel her internal turmoil and panic while deciding if she should stay or leave “Dorian’s” home. For her work, Lansbury received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination. She became lifelong friends with Hatfield, and worked again with Lewin in his 1947 film "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami" opposite Sanders. In case you were wondering, that is Lansbury singing "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird”, and over four decades later, she sang it again on her hit TV series, “Murder, She Wrote”.


Lydia Bilbrook watches Angela Lansbury sing "Goodbye Little Yellow Bird" in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Glamorous portrait photo of young Hollywood movie star, Broadway and television actress and icon Angela Lansbury with fur
Angela Lansbury

After fleeing war-torn England, Angela Lansbury moved with her family to New York, and then followed her actress mother, Moyna Macgill, to Hollywood where Lansbury worked as a nightclub singer. At the age of seventeen, while accompanying her friend, English actor Michael Dyne, to his audition for the role of “Dorian Gray”, Lansbury found herself being considered for the part of “Sibyl”. The casting director mentioned another part they were trying to cast, that of a maid in the film “Gaslight”, directed by George Cukor. Lansbury was immediately sent to meet with Cukor, and then to Lewin. She got both parts, and earned subsequent Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations for each. She was signed to MGM and first shot “Gaslight” (her film debut), immediately followed by a part in the classic “National Velvet”, and then “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, which was her third film. A triumphant beginning to what would become a legendary, multiple award-winning, nearly eight decade long career. You can read more about the life and career of Angela Lansbury in my post on “Gaslight”. A fun piece of trivia: Lansbury’s mother appears in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” as “The Duchess” in the dinner scene at “Lady Agatha’s”.


Peter Lawford in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Portrait of young Hollywood movie star film actor rat pack member Peter Lawford
Peter Lawford

Another MGM contract player on the rise to stardom in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was Peter Lawford who plays “David Stone”, the young man in love with “Gladys” who resents “Dorian”. “David” is inquisitive, strong willed and doesn’t like or trust “Dorian”, and Lawford adds a youthful charm to the man, making him likable. The characters of “David” and “Gladys” were not in Wilde’s novel, but were additions made by Lewin for the film version.


Since 1938, Peter Lawford had been appearing in small and bit parts, often typecast in military roles in films such as "A Yank at Eton", "Random Harvest", and "Girl Crazy". He signed with MGM in 1943 and began to get better parts, including his small but important role in "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Lawford’s next film, "Son of Lassie", released later in 1945, was his first starring role, and by the end of the decade he was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men and heartthrobs. You can read more about the life and career of Peter Lawford in my post on “It Should Happened to You”.


Mary Forbes hosts a dinner with Robert Grieg in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

As mentioned, MGM had a vast array of actors under contract, many of whom were used in film after film as bit players, and "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" is peppered with them, including two I’ve previously written about: Reginald Owen in an uncredited role as “Lord George Farmour” (you can read about Owen in my post on “Rebecca”); and Mary Forbes who plays “Lady Agatha”, the hostess of the film’s first dinner party (you can read about Forbes in my post on “Bombshell”).


Hurd Hatfield with portrait and ancient Egyptian cat sculpture stars in the title role in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Portrait of Dorian Gray"

Wildly suspenseful, cleverly thought provoking, and extraordinarily exquisite, this week’s classic is certified top-tier entertainment you won't easily forget. Enjoy “The Picture of Dorian Gray”!



This blog is a weekly series (currently biweekly) on all types of classic films from the silent era through the 1970s. It is designed to entertain and inform through watching a recommended classic film a week. The intent is that a love and deepened knowledge of cinema will evolve, along with a familiarity of important stars, directors, writers, the studio system, and more. I highly recommend visiting (or revisiting) the HOME page, which explains it all and provides a place where you can subscribe and get email notifications of every new post. Visit THE MOVIES page to see a list of all films currently on this site. Please leave comments, share this blog with family, friends, and on social media, and subscribe so you don’t miss a post. Thanks so much for reading!




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TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):



Close up of the color portrait  in the classic Hollywood MGM movie gothic horror film thriller based on the novel by Oscar Wilde "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Another very effective device employed by Lewin was the use of color to show the portrait. The explosion of color contrasted with the black and white gives the painting an otherworldly, immortal, and alive aura.


The first color portrait of "Dorian" seen in the film was painted by Henrique Medina. When MGM sold its assets in 1970, the painting was among the items auctioned. It has since surfaced in auctions a couple of times, and last sold in 2015 at Christie's, New York for $149,000.


The subsequent painting of “Dorian” was painted little by little by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright and his twin brother Malvin, who kept adding changes to the painting as needed on the set. The final result (the last color painting seen) is now part of the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

5件のコメント


contestalee
4月30日

Hey, Jay, I always have trouble remembering what the word louche means, but then I think of George Sanders in this movie and say to myself, "Oh yeah, that's louche."


Thank you for so many astute observations; now I want to watch the film again.

I didn't know that Baudelaire wrote Fluers du Mal; he played an important part in another film that George Sanders (love him!) was in, my favorite Lucille Ball film, "Lured".

いいね!
contestalee
5月01日
返信先

You are so kind, but I bow before your movie knowledge!

いいね!

Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
4月30日

Jay, as always, thank you for the detailed and illuminating review. I love this film. Its been years since I watched it, its a masterpiece. Its a deal with Mephistopheles for eternal youth. An attribute that still runs strong in our society for certain. Dorian as Wilde's alter ego, something I hadnt thought about, but sounds plausible. He was a rascal. The cast, the silky voiced Sanders (loved his performance here and in Eve), Reed, Lansbury, Lawford. What's not to love. The sets, lighting, all benchmark level. Too bad we live in the time of the franchise film industry where its all about the profit and loss statement for the last quarter. These gems live forever!

いいね!
Jay Jacobson
Jay Jacobson
4月30日
返信先

Hi Mark. I agree with you on all counts – it is certainly relevant and quite a masterpiece. If you do revisit this film after such a long time, I'm sure you'll be surprised to find it's even more finely crafted and visually stunning than you remember.


The movie business is certainly changing, and I'm no longer sure it will still be around (the way we know it) in the next decade or so. Very sad. Movies have such power to inspire and unite us. And there's nothing like the shared experience of watching a movie in a theater with an attentive audience. I have a gnawing feeling that my blog will end up representing not just specific movies, but…


いいね!
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