Oscar WIlde

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DAY 10 OF 31: THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945)

Published October 10, 2019 by Philip Ivory

Produced by MGM, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is a first-class, hauntingly effective adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel.

Dorian, played by Hurd Hatfield, is young man possessed of many gifts. Cultured, wealthy, and almost supernaturally handsome, he falls under the sway of the amoral Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders), who convinces Dorian that beauty and pleasure are the only things worth living for.

While having his portrait painted by his friend Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore), Dorian makes a wish, one that is granted, perhaps with the help of Dorian’s  Egyptian cat statue that may have exotic powers. What does Dorian wish for? That no matter what experiences he undergoes, no matter how much time passes, Dorian’s face will remain unchanged. Only the painting will be altered.

The picture of Dorian Gray in its original state, seen in a color shot inserted into the black and white film.

The implacably handsome Hatfield is a compelling choice as Dorian, a man torn between his desire for a virtuous life rewarded with love, and the hedonistic lifestyle championed by Lord Henry. Dorian chooses the darker path, and his friends and acquaintances pay the price.

An impossibly young Angela Lansbury plays Sybil Vane, the trusting singer Dorian falls for before cruelly casting her aside and crushing her spirit, leading to her suicide.

Dorian’s path to ruin starts with driving singer Sybil Vane (Angela Lansbury) to suicide.

As time goes on, Dorian remains unchanged, outwardly. But there are whispers of scandals and lives ruined.

When Basil becomes suspicious and wants to see his portrait, the one that has been hidden away because it bears the evidence of Dorian’s sins, Dorian murders him.

The film is black and white, but includes color insert shots to show the painting at various stages, culminating in a hideous visage of a human monster.

The most infamous “after” picture ever seen.

In the end, Dorian is so shocked by the image and by how far he has fallen that he’s finally driven to destroy the painting, inadvertently destroying himself.

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY remains an elegant, underrated masterpiece.

DIALOGUE

“I like persons better than principles and persons with no principles better than anything at all.” — Lord Henry Wotton

“If only it was the picture who was to grow old, and I remain young. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t give for that. Yes, I would give even my soul for it. ” — Dorian Gray

“There’s only one way to get rid of temptation, and that’s to yield to it. ” — Lord Henry Wotton

 

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“Just room for one inside, sir.”