Still probably the best screen adaption of Oscar Wilde’s one full novel, 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a black-and-white masterpiece, striking and still capable of shocking after all these years. Having a picture in the attic is such a well-worn cliche by now, we often don’t realize that it’s not just that the painting ages but that it reflects all of Dorian’s moral failings and grave sins. This film doesn’t need to show how terrible Dorian sinks — his first crime is tragic enough and his last his truly cold-blooded. As portrayed by Hurd Hatfield, Dorian Gray goes from naively charming to terrifyingly callous in the course of an hour or so.
My only quibble with the movie is the costumes. OK, sure, they’re fine for ’40s does late Victorian pretty much. But why begin the movie with a title card that says “London 1886”? It’s so weirdly specific and thus leaves the film open to us noticing what does NOT look 1880s. Why not just have the title card say “Victorian London” and be done with it?
I suppose, as a literary purist, I should be annoyed that the film adds a love interest who isn’t in the book, but that doesn’t irritate me as much as the 1886 thing.
It all starts with the painting, as Basil says his hand and brush feel guided by some unseen force.
Basil’s libertine friend, Lord Henry, puts ideas in gullible young Dorian’s head.
The original portrait — note that it’s shown in technicolor while the rest of the film is in black & white.
Thinking of Lord Henry’s pleasure-seeking advice, Dorian heads to London’s seedier side.
Where he is enchanted by the singing of Sibyl Vance.
Likewise, she falls in love with him, as he plays Chopin for her.
Screen-test photos of Angela Landsbury as Sibyl show a reasonably good Victorian lower-class costume. I’ll allow the short length since this is her stage outfit.
This is her “everyday” outfit. It’s ye olde-timey enough.
Appropriately, she has a bird on her hat because her signature song is about a ‘little yellow bird.’
While the women’s costumes are generally Victorian-esque, the men’s costumes stick out the most as 1940s. Dorian’s double-breasted pinstriped suit sticks out like a sore thumb, and it’s not the only one.
This poor cat statue (Bastet?) gets blamed for turning Dorian’s painting bad. Unfair!
Lord Henry (center) ages, as does Basil’s neice (right), Gladys, who has the hots for Dorian, despite her would-be boyfriend’s efforts (left, in another 1940s suit).
Gladys and Dorian get engaged … maybe!
Dorian’s misdeeds are revealed in the final portrait.
Are you a fan of what’s lurking in the attic?