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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) starring George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, Peter Lawford
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The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) starring  George Sanders,  Hurd Hatfield, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, Peter Lawford

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the great movies. It’s about a young man who, after an off-hand wish, finds himself unaging, with age — and corruption — affecting his portrait. But he himself is apparently untouched. He is guided down the path of corruption and self-indulgence. He leads, directly or indirectly, to multiple deaths and suicides. Can he find salvation?

The main characters

Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane – in a real sense, the first victim

In short,  The Picture of Dorian Gray is an excellent movie, with an excellent cast. Hurd Hatfield stars at the title character, and plays Dorian Gray as aloof, and cold. At least after his Faustian bargain. George Sanders is at his best as Lord Henry Wotton, who prods, leads and pushes Dorian into temptation, excess, and self-indulgence. It’s a delight to watch Sanders at his wicked best, corrupting Dorian Gray at every opportunity. Then, a young Angela Lansbury is the innocent singer, with a great voice, who Gray (at Wooton’s urging) pushes away from him. Leading to her death by suicide.

A young Donna Reed plays the part of the young woman who, initially smitten as a young girl with Dorian, pursues him as a young woman. Much to the chagrin of her boyfriend David Stone (a young Peter Lawford).

Pleasure doesn’t satisfy

Dorian Gray sinks deeper into self-pleasure, only to become less happy. He goes as far as murder to try and hide the secret of his painting. In a great scene, where the man who painted the portrait tries — and fails — to remind him of his youth. And to have him repent, and pray for forgiveness. Then, Dorian murders him for his kindness. And then blackmails another man to cover it up.

At the finale, Dorian is given a final chance to repent … I’ll not give away the ending, except to say that it’s excellent, with the horrific ending that you would expect in a monster movie. I truly enjoyed  The Picture of Dorian Gray and recommend it very highly.

Be sure to check out the movie quotes as well.

Editorial review of  The Picture of Dorian Grey courtesy of

These nip/tuck, Botoxed times would seem to be ripe for a remake of Oscar Wilde’s ageless story of youth-worshiping aristocrat Dorian Gray. Until then, we have this 1945 prestige production starring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian, who, under the influence of the incorrigible Lord Henry Wotton, vows to live only for pleasure and to give in to all “exquisite temptations.” While he sinks into a vile life of decadence and corruption, he remains young, while his painted portrait becomes “an emblem of his own conscience,” growing more hideous as Gray becomes more monstrous. Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Academy Award for her heartbreaking performance as innocent singer Sibyl Vane, the first victim of Gray’s callousness.

George Sanders is at his contemptuous best as the cynical Lord Wotton, wringing every drip of disdain out of such Wilde-isms as, “I always choose my friends for their good lucks and my enemies for their good intellects.” This pristine transfer does full justice to the film’s Oscar-winning black and white cinematography (with vivid Technicolor inserts of the mesmerizing painting). With entertaining extras that replicate an old fashioned night at the movies, including a trailer and two Oscar-winning shorts, the Tom & Jerry cartoon, “Quiet Please” and “Stairway to Light,” and affectionate, detailed, and illuminating commentary by Lansbury and film historian and screenwriter Steve Haberman, this DVD is suitable for framing. —Donald Liebenson

Cast of characters

  • George Sanders (Village of the Damned, All About Eve) … Lord Henry Wotton
  • Hurd Hatfield (King of Kings) … Dorian Gray
  • Donna Reed (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Caddy) … Gladys Hallward
  • Angela Lansbury (Gaslight, The Manchurian candidate) … Sibyl Vane
  • Peter Lawford (Royal Wedding, Easter Parade) … David Stone
  • Lowell Gilmore (The Black Arrow) … Basil Hallward
  • Richard Fraser (Bedlam) … James Vane
  • Douglas Walton (Bride of Frankenstein) … Allen Campbell
  • Morton Lowry (The Hound of the Baskervilles 1939) … Adrian Singleton
  • Miles Mander (The Return of the Vampire) … Sir Robert Bentley
  • Lydia Bilbrook Lydia Bilbrook … Mrs. Vane
  • Mary Forbes Mary Forbes … Lady Agatha
  • Robert Greig Robert Greig … Sir Thomas
  • Moyna MacGill Moyna MacGill … Duchess
  • Billy Bevan Billy Bevan … Malvolio Jones – Chairman
  • Renee Carson Renee Carson … Young French Woman (as Renie Carson)
  • Lilian Bond Lilian Bond … Kate (as Lillian Bond)
  • Devi Dja Devi Dja … Lead Dancer (as Devi Dja and Her Balinese Dancers)

Trivia for The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • The movie is black and white …. Except for four times when Dorian Gray’s picture is shown in color.
  • Years later, a friend of Hurd Hatfield’s bought the Henrique Medina painting of young Dorian Gray at the MGM auction. He gave it to Hatfield. On March 21, 2015 the portrait was put up for auction at Christie’s in New York. A pre-auction estimate was between $5,000 to $8.000. It sold for $149,000.
  • Ivan Le Lorraine Albright’s famous painting of the decayed Dorian Gray took approximately one year to complete. It’s now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. It has been on display for many years. Henrique Medina did the portrait seen in the film. The March 27, 1944 issue of Life magazine included a story and photos of the brothers working on their paintings for the film.
  • According to Angela Lansbury, a friend of hers, Michael Dyne, was considered for Dorian. Dyne suggested Lansbury for the role of Sybil Vane. The casting director liked her for the part and suggested her to George Cukor for Gaslight (1944). She saw both Cukor and Albert Lewin the same day and was cast for her first two films.
  • Donna Reed didn’t enjoy making this movie because she was promised the role played by Angela Lansbury.
  • The blocks under the table in Dorian’s school room have the initials of the people who die.

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