For those of you that enjoy Halloween movies year round, the 1945 production of the “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” is must see-TV.
Directed by Albert Lewis, and based on Oscar Wilde’s only novel (1890), “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” is a haunting film that featured George Sanders, Hurd Hadfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, and Peter Lawford. Taking place in Victorian England, the story begins when the young, handsome, wealthy, and rather naïve Dorian Gray (Hurd Hadfield) poses for a portrait for his friend Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore). While sitting for the portrait, a discussion takes place between Basil’s friend, Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) and Dorian. Lord Henry Wotton corrupts Dorian by telling him that the only pleasure in life should be the here, and now, of youth.
Dorian visits a tavern where he becomes smitten with a beautiful young singer named Sibyl (Angela Lansbury) and soon the two are engaged to be married. But once again, Lord Henry corrupts Dorian with his hedonistic view on life, and Dorian breaks off the engagement with a hurtful letter to Sibyl. Dorian offers monetary compensation to Sibyl, but he finds out the next morning that she has taken her life. Now Dorian goes into the spiral of debauchery,which Lord Henry had condoned, but he also finds that the portrait that is hanging is his living room has a more ominous tone. Dorian locks the portrait away, so that he doesn’t have to look at it.
Dorian now turns 40, but he has not changed in appearance. He has spent 18 years pursuing a life of debauchery and his friends are stunned to see that his physical appearance has remained the same. Although the portrait is locked away, Dorian is abhorred by the thought of looking at it. Eventually, the creator of the portrait, Basil, manages to get a glimpse of his painting and finds a hideous demon-like character etched on it. In a fit of anger, Dorian murders Basil and the body remains to rot with the portrait. Dorian eventually has a showdown with the portrait, but the outcome is fiendish.
What does it all mean? It looks like Dorian has sold his soul to the devil (Lord Henry Wotton) — in exchange for not looking at the portrait, Dorian will remain forever young, and the portrait ages; but when Dorian cannot resist looking at the portrait, he turns into the ominous image. Hurd Hadfield is good as the expressionless Dorian, and George Sanders displays his great acting talent as Lord Henry Wotton (the devil?). Angela Lansbury gets the opportunity to show off her singing ability, and Donna Reed and Peter Lawford have bit parts. The movie is a classic and can be seen on TCM.
(110 mins/ horror)
Reviewer’s Notes: The famous portrait of Dorian Gray by Ivan Albright now hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. (The portrait is shown in color during the movie – the rest of the movie is in black and white.)
Reviewer’s Rating: 4 of 5 Demonic Portraits.