The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945 film)

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a 1945 American supernatural horror-drama film based on Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel of the same name. Released in June 1945 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film was directed by Albert Lewin, and stars George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton and Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray. Shot primarily in black-and-white, the film features four colour inserts in three-strip Technicolor of Dorian's portrait; these are a special effect, the first two inserts picturing a youthful Dorian and the second two a degenerate one.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Promotional poster
Directed byAlbert Lewin
Screenplay byAlbert Lewin
Based onThe Picture of Dorian Gray
1891 novel
by Oscar Wilde
Produced byPandro S. Berman
StarringGeorge Sanders
Hurd Hatfield
Donna Reed
Angela Lansbury
Peter Lawford
Lowell Gilmore
Narrated byCedric Hardwicke
CinematographyHarry Stradling
Edited byFerris Webster
Music byHerbert Stothart
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • March 3, 1945 (1945-03-03)[1]
Running time
110 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,975,000[3][4]

Plot edit

While posing for a painting by his friend Basil Hallward, handsome young aristocrat Dorian Gray meets Hallward's friend Lord Henry Wotton. Wotton persuades Gray the only worthwhile life is dedicated to pleasure, because "what the gods give they quickly take away." Contemplating this, Gray wishes his portrait could age instead of him. He makes this wish in the presence of an Egyptian cat statue with supposed magical powers.


After callously breaking off his engagement to tavern singer Sibyl Vane, Gray finds the portrait has begun to change and wonders if his wish may have come true. He has the portrait locked away in his old schoolroom and disguises its location by firing servants who moved the painting, while Gray becomes more dedicated to a sinful and heartless life.


Years later, Dorian is 40 but still looks 22. London society is awestruck at his unchanging appearance. The portrait has remained locked away, with Gray holding the only key. Over the years, the portrait of the young, handsome, Dorian Gray has warped into a hideous, demon-like creature reflecting his many sins. When Hallward sees his painting, Gray murders his friend and seals his body in the school room next to the portrait, then blackmails his friend, Allen Campbell, to dispose of Hallward's body. Campbell, distraught at his role in destroying Hallward's corpse, commits suicide.

Gray starts a romance with Hallward's niece, Gladys. James Vane, Sibyl's brother, follows Gray to his country estate to achieve revenge for Sibyl's death and is shot by accident during a hunting party.

Gray despairs at his impact on others and realises he can spare Gladys from misfortune by leaving her. After sending Gladys a letter breaking their engagement, Gray confronts his portrait and sees a subtle improvement. He stabs the portrait in the heart, seeking to end the spell, but cries out as if he has also been stabbed. His friends, realizing what has happened, burst into the schoolroom to discover Gray dead next to the portrait, his deformed body now reflecting his sins in physical form. The portrait, by contrast, once more shows Dorian Gray as a young, innocent man.

Cast edit

Uncredited Cast

Production edit

Differences between movie and book edit

Changes to the original include the romance between Gladys and David and “some censorship restrictions that kept Dorian's unspeakable acts offscreen.” [5] In the book, the picture alters in response to Dorian's "good deed", but the alteration is ugly, reflecting his cynicism and self-serving motivation. He stabs the painting to destroy his conscience and eliminate the evidence. In the film, he reads a faint change in the painting as a sign of hope, yet stabs the painting as if he can undo his past. As he is transformed off-screen, he prays for forgiveness.[5]

The paintings edit

Albright's painting of Dorian Gray, from the 1945 film
External audio
  Multimedia, Audio stop 728.mp3, Art Institute of Chicago

Two paintings of the character Dorian Gray were used in the film. The painting titled Picture of Dorian Gray used at the end of the film was painted on commission during the making of the film in 1943-1944 by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, an American artist who was well known as a painter of the macabre. Created specifically for use in the film, it is now part of the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.[6] Albright painted and altered the picture while the movie was being made to allow it to represent the development of Dorian's character.[citation needed]

The portrait of Dorian Gray seen in the beginning of the film was painted by Henrique Medina, and is titled Portrait of Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray. It was originally sold at an MGM auction in 1970 when the contents of the studio were sold at a series of auctions lasting several months. It was then sold in a Butterfield and Butterfield Entertainment Memorabilia auction in 1997 for $17,250,[7] and in 2015 it sold at Christie's, New York, for $149,000 and is believed to be in a private collection.[8][9]

Music edit

The first piano piece played by Dorian to Sibyl is Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude No 24 in D minor". Played later in the Blue Gate Field house is Ludwig van Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata".

Box office edit

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,399,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $1,576,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $26,000.[3]

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1946 Academy Award Nominated Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White John Bonar, Cedric Gibbons, Hugh Hunt, Hans Peters
and Edwin B. Willis
Nominated Best Actress in a Supporting Role Angela Lansbury
Won Best Cinematography, Black-and-White Harry Stradling[a]
Golden Globe Award Won Best Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury
1996 Hugo Award Won Best Dramatic Presentation Albert Lewin, Oscar Wilde
2009 Saturn Award Won Best DVD Classic Film Release The Picture of Dorian Gray[citation needed]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ This Oscar win for Cinematography is a rare demonstration of respect for a horror film.[10]

References edit

  1. ^ "The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
  2. ^ "THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1945-04-04. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  3. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. ^ Eyman, Scott (2005). Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. Simon & Schuster. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-7432-0481-1.
  5. ^ a b "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2022-10-04.
  6. ^ "Picture of Dorian Gray". Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
  7. ^ Arnet, Danielle (May 18, 1998). "Merger Mania Hits The Auction Circuit". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 27, 2022.
  8. ^ "Lot 1330 Henrique Medina (1901-1988) Portrait of Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray". Christie's. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Henrique Medina, Cindy Sherman | "Portrait of Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray" and "The Evil Twin" (1945 and 2016)". Artsy. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  10. ^ Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-8109-4535-7.

External links edit