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The Picture of Dorian Gray is an Americanmarker horror-drama film based on the 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, his only novel. Released in March 1945 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film is directed by Albert Lewin and stars George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton and Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray. The film was mainly shot in black-and-white, but featured two 3-strip Technicolor inserts of Dorian's portrait for effect (one of his portrait's original state, and the second after a major period of degeneracy).


Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), wishing to remain young and handsome for eternity, essentially sells his soul so that a portrait can age instead of him. The wish, made in the presence of an ancient Egyptian statuette of the goddess Bast inside the painter Basil Hallward's house, comes true. Over the course of the next eighteen years, Dorian commits every sort of sin, heavily influenced by witty, hedonistic friend Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders). His sins include deliberately ruining his romance with vaudeville singer Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury, nominated for an Academy Award for the second time in two years, following her performance in 1944's Gaslight). Later, he is guilty of stabbing Basil Hallward after he sees the horrific state of his portrait, and then blackmailing an old friend to dispose of Basil's corpse; frequenting opium dens; and defiling Basil's young niece Gladys. All the while, he keeps his picture locked in a high room in his London house, often firing and hiring servants, becoming increasingly neurotic and cold towards those who call him friend.

But as his life goes on, he slowly realizes the emptiness and evil which he has succumbed to. Before he ruins his romance with Gladys, he returns to his house in London, confronts the horrific painting, and makes to slash the painting to shreds. Dorian stabs his degenerated likeness in the heart with the very same knife he used to kill Basil. But he immediately feels a knife pierce his own heart, and he dies on the floor, his face and body quickly transforming to show the hideous sins he committed, but his painting returns to the pristine state of eighteen years ago.


Differences from the novel

  • In Wilde's original, Sybil Vane is a Shakespearean actress whom Dorian observes playing Juliet, rather than the gifted dance-hall singer seen in this film. This necessitates altering Dorian's motive for breaking up with her. In the novel, her acting has become shallow as a result of really falling in love with Dorian, and his sense of illusion has been dissipated. In the film, she reacts poorly to his confessions of sensual temptations, which dismays him.

  • In the context of those confessions to Sybil, in this film he reads her a poem about cats and sensual temptation which he tells her is "by an Irishman named Oscar Wilde." It is, in fact, a very short excerpt from Oscar Wilde's poem "The Sphinx". Similarly, the use of poetry by Omar Khayam is distinctive to this film.
  • The novel has no reference to Dorian being painted with an Eqyptian goddess shaped like a cat who could grant his wish, as the film has.

  • Dorian Gray's final speech to Henry in the novel about the soul being non-material but corruptible is one he claims to have heard from a street-preacher. In the film, Dorian hears these words himself from a street-preacher.

  • Dorian's final marriage before his death is to a parson's daughter in the noveel; In the film it is to a girl related to the painter Basil Hallward who had a childhood crush on Dorian when he was younger.

The painting of Dorian Gray

The painting entitled Picture of Dorian Gray used in 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 art collection of The Art Institute of Chicagomarker. Albright had to paint the picture while the movie was being made in order to show Dorian Gray's physical transformation as his evil actions changed him into a horrid image in the painting while his actual physical appearance remained that of a young man. At the film's climax, Gray "killed" the painting by piercing it through its heart with a knife, thus killing himself when his physical appearance changed to that of the painting.

Awards and nominations

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
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Angela Lansbury
Won Best Cinematography, Black-and-White Harry Stradling, Sr.
Golden Globe Award Won Best Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury
Hugo Award Won Best Dramatic Presentation


  1. Information about Picture of Dorian Gray in the Art Institute of Chicago

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