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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

(Warner Bros. 1945/2008. 1 hour, 50 minutes. B&W with Technicolor inserts. Not Rated. Directed by Albert Lewin.) George Sanders (Lord Henry), Hurd Hatfield (Dorian Gray), Donna Reed (Gladys Hallward), Angela Lansbury (Sybil Vane), Peter Lawford (David Stone), Lowell Gilmore (Basil Hallward), Richard Fraser (James Vane). Music by Herbert Stothart.

Top-drawer MGM adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Dorian Gray is a mysterious man of wealth in 1880s London whose youthful visage remains unchanged despite the passing of the years. As he descends into a life of hedonism and selfishness, his sins are visited upon a portrait of himself he keeps locked away in his childhood playroom. Albert Lewin was primarily a producer at several studios; he directed a few films, this one being his superior effort. New York native Hatfield had a long career on stage, TV and films (including several guest spots on Lansbury’s TV series Murder, She Wrote), but was forever identified with this role. Lansbury, just 19 here, registers in only her second movie (she had just filmed another small-yet-juicy role as the maid in Gaslight). Stunning art direction and cinematography (which won an Oscar). Effective use of color inserts when Dorian’s portrait is shown. Only complaint: screenplay is quite talky; Lord Henry spouts what we would now call sound bites. Lansbury, now 82 and the last surviving member of the cast, provides insightful commentary on the DVD, especially about Lewin (who isn’t known today). She has a good memory for details from 63 years ago. Extras also include a vintage short and cartoon, plus a trailer. Best of the many versions of the novel (rumor has it another Dorian Gray is on the way with Ben Barnes, the recent Prince Caspian).