The Picture of Dorian Gray
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Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945) (DVD)
Is the sole purpose of art to create beauty?When Dorian Gray, a handsome, young Victorian gentleman obsessed withthe fleeting transience of his own beauty, becomes disturbed by aportrait that seems to capture too much of his soul, he makes a darkpact: He will remain forever young, while the age, disease and decaythat should affect his body ravage The Picture of Dorian Gray. Over theyears, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) revels in every imaginable pleasureand experience--altruistic, decadent or evil--while somehow maintaininghis youthful beauty even as the painting, locked away in a dark room,reveals an increasingly decaying, corrupt, aging visage. Although Graymay be able to avoid the ravages of time, he cannot escape the wrath ofpeople he wrongs over the years. And when his one lethal weakness isfinally discovered, Gray pays for all his evils in a shocking climax.]]>
These nip/tuck, Botoxed times would seem to be ripe for a remake of Oscar Wilde's ageless story of youth-worshiping aristocrat Dorian Gray. Until then, we have this 1945 prestige production starring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian, who, under the influence of the incorrigible Lord Henry Wotton, vows to live only for pleasure and to give in to all "exquisite temptations." While he sinks into a vile life of decadence and corruption, he remains young, while his painted portrait becomes "an emblem of his own conscience," growing more hideous as Gray becomes more monstrous. Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Academy Award for her heartbreaking performance as innocent singer Sibyl Vane, the first victim of Gray's callousness. George Sanders is at his contemptuous best as the cynical Lord Wotton, wringing every drip of disdain out of such Wilde-isms as, "I always choose my friends for their good lucks and my enemies for their good intellects." This pristine transfer does full justice to the film's Oscar-winning black and white cinematography (with vivid Technicolor inserts of the mesmerizing painting). With entertaining extras that replicate an old fashioned night at the movies, including a trailer and two Oscar-winning shorts, the Tom & Jerry cartoon, "Quiet Please" and "Stairway to Light," and affectionate, detailed, and illuminating commentary by Lansbury and film historian and screenwriter Steve Haberman, this DVD is suitable for framing. --Donald Liebenson
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Embarking on his pursuit of pleasure, Gray visits a tavern theater where he meets the singer Sybil Vane, portrayed by 19-year-old Angela Lansbury, in a role for which she received an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress. Gray seduces and then cruelly abandons Sybil, following a specific course of action suggested by Lord Henry. Gray notices a change in his portrait, and covers it, periodically unveiling it to see the effect his dissolute life is having on the image.
The film has some sad echoes for those who know the history of Oscar Wilde, who is referred to by name in the script. Wilde was the author of the original Dorian Gray novel. He too was a handsome young man of great intelligence who devoted himself to the pursuit of pleasure, inspired in this choice by one of his Oxford professors. Like his creation Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde also came to calamitous ruin.
This 2014 Blu-ray edition appears to be a perfect rendition of the original 1945 visual and sound elements. The Warner Brothers Archive release makes no mention of restoration, but it presents a flawless image of the film, which won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The sound is monaural, but beautifully clean and clear. One curious feature, in this otherwise black-and-white film, is that the portrait is shown in full color, increasingly lurid as Gray's sins disfigure it.
Excellent job by all the actors. Especially George Sanders... what a hoot.
Is youth worth selling your soul? Not here. Great movie
Years change. Handsome Dorian Gray does not. He remains youthful-looking. But a portrait of him tells another story. It changes with the years, revealing the horrific effects of Dorian Gray’s life of debauchery and evil. From Oscar Wilde’s novel and filmed in a rapturous, deep-focus style that earned a Best Cinematography Academy Award® and this chilling tale remains unchanging in its power to entertain. Hurd Hatfield plays the rakish title character in this morality tale, also featuring George Sanders as Wilde-like dandy who leads Dorian Gray to perdition and Best Supporting Actress Oscar® nominee Dame Angela Lansbury as a musical-hall thrush victimised by Dorian Gray, plus Donna Reed and Peter Lawford. Every picture tells a story. But none tells as a haunting tale of terror as ‘The Picture of Dorian Dray.’
FILM FACT: Academy Award® Nominated for Best Art Direction and Interior Decoration, Black-and-White for John Bonar, Cedric Gibbons, Hugh Hunt, Hans Peters and Edwin B. Willis. Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Angela Lansbury. Won Best Cinematography, Black-and-White for Harry Stradling, Sr. Golden Globe® Awards for Won for Best Supporting Actress for Angela Lansbury. Hugo Award: Won for Best Dramatic Presentation. Shot primarily in black-and-white, the film features four inserts in a 3-strip Technicolor of Dorian Gray's portrait as a special effect and the first two of his portrait's original state, and the second two after a major period of degeneration.
Cast: George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Lowell Gilmore, Dame Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford, Lowell Gilmore, Richard Fraser, Douglas Walton, Morton Lowry, Miles Mander, Lydia Bilbrook, Mary Forbes, Robert Greig, Moyna Macgill, Billy Bevan, Renee Carson, Lilian Bond, Harry Adams (uncredited), Fred Aldrich (uncredited), Harry Allen (uncredited), Eddie Aquilian (uncredited), Jimmy Aubrey (uncredited), Monica Bannister (uncredited), Guy Bellis (uncredited), Helena Benda (uncredited), Paul De Corday (uncredited), Natalie Draper (uncredited) and Cedric Hardwicke (Narrator)
Director: Albert Lewin
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Albert Lewin and Oscar Wilde (based upon the novel)
Composer: Herbert Stothart
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White + Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 110 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Here's a cautionary tale to make you think twice about people who never seem to age or lose their youthful good looks. Our case in point is a nineteenth century aristocrat named Dorian Gray who strikes a strange bargain with the artist who paints his portrait. While Dorian Gray remains eternally youthful and angelic in appearance, his portrait reflects his true character, one where his decadent lifestyle and acts of debauchery show up in hideous physical detail.
There's an old adage that continues to persevere today about a person not being able to look themselves in the mirror out of remorse over the things they've done, an idea revolving around damaged morality and the impact one's decisions have on their perception of themselves. Victorian playwright and author Oscar Wilde manifests this concept rather overtly in his gothic horror-drama novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ which also explores the superficial importance and deception involved with appearances through an enigmatic painting, which was painted by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, that preserves youth and, in response to the subject's decisions, changes in form with time. While writer/director Albert Lewin takes a few liberties in illustrating a romanticised version of Oscar Wilde's story, his atmospheric and ominous 1940s adaptation fully captures what makes the immortality, and immorality, of Dorian Gray a considerable philosophical yarn: the soul-searching austerity of hiding one's wrongdoings beneath an unblemished facade.
The story picks up just as Lord Henry Wotton [George Sanders], a hedonistic socialite with no form of employment and plenty of opinions, visits the home studio of his more compassionate artist friend, Basil Howard [Lowell Gilmore], who's obsessing over a portrait that seems to be taking on a life of its own. Basil's subject is the titular Dorian Gray [Hurd Hatfield] a slim, temperate gentleman with a welcoming outlook on life. As they chat, however, amid interruptions from Basil Howard's niece, Lord Henry Wotton plants seeds of existential doubt in Dorian Gray's mind, about the transience of youth and the necessity for enjoying life to the fullest before it fades. In those moments, while in the presence of a conspicuous Egyptian statue, Dorian Gray expresses his wish to remain as youthful as the portrait. That wish is granted; however, as he makes choices amid a new pleasure-seeking lifestyle and develops a budding romance with performer Sybil Vane [Dame Angela Lansbury], the portrait responds to how he conducts himself. Dorian Gray remains physically flawless, while his painting morphs into something grotesque.
For all intents and purposes, Basil Howard and Lord Henry Wotton play the angel and the devil on Dorian Gray's shoulders and one speaks of virtue and devotion, the other of the necessity behind immediate gratification to which Oscar Wilde's story then focuses on the happenings when the now-ageless man surrenders to boundless pleasure-seeking, without regard to those around him. Albert Lewin's crafty reverence to the source material captures its themes in a timeless, dark fashion, gravitating towards cautionary introspection about vanity and mortality through the film's often morose speeches. While there are departures from Oscar Wilde's text, like a subtle Egyptian-inspired explanation to the painting's magic and the importance of Basil Howard's niece later on, they're so effortlessly folded into the author's intentions that they strengthen the story's cinematic language instead of sticking out as unnecessary addendums. Everything here has a role to play in the manipulation of Dorian Gray, and his manipulation of others, sketching a credible depiction of his moral collapse and skewed perspective on the value of time.
For those deeper meanings to surface, Oscar Wilde's story needs to convince the audience that a nobler and warmer version of Dorian Gray exists, a side of himself that gets locked away to make room for a superficial narcissist. Hurd Hatfield's skeletal frame and chilly impassiveness are a uniquely handsome fit for Dorian Gray's malleability, his deceptive grin and piercing eyes creating a distinctive vessel for his personality as he becomes transfixed with the evolution of Basil Howard's painting. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ elevates his abandon at first with classic '40s-era romantics, portraying his relationship with Sybil Vane played with tender, unembellished loveliness by a young Dame Angela Lansbury with the proper innocence and suggested caution from Lord Wotton around the disparity in their social classes. The corruption of this innocence happens in abrupt and melodramatic fashion in the film, but not without first expressing Sybil Vane's profound impact on him ... and his difficulty in choosing between the hedonistic freedoms championed by George Sanders' charismatically unscrupulous Lord Henry and restraining himself for the sake of his "yellow bird."
Moody shadows, lofty ceilings, and foggy walkways of Victorian London surround Dorian Gray's descent into self-indulgence, uncannily framed by Harry Stradling's OSCAR® winning deep focus photography. The gloominess appropriately reflects the story's focus on a visual manifestation of a person's soul in response to the careless decisions made in their life, mirroring its ominous abstractions about the nature of sin, experience, and reputation. Director Albert Lewin lets Dorian Gray’s lecherous endeavours occur off-screen, smartly letting the imaginations of ever-changing audiences fill in the gaps of what goes on in the city's dens of indulgence. In other ways, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ grows darker as it progresses: the people and events in Dorian Gray's life fester in response to his decisions much in the same way as his painting, the mistakes he's made and the people he's known, including Basil's niece, Gladys Hallward, delicately played by Donna Reed coming back to haunt him in ways both physical and emotional.
Perhaps the most intriguing about ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is the painting itself, becoming its own intermittent character as it reaches its final grotesque form through a brilliantly macabre painting from Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, commissioned specifically for the film. Director Albert Lewin understood the power of the painting, too, both in the narrative and Ivan Le Lorraine Albright's work itself, evidenced by his strategic, poignant usage of Technicolor several times throughout the film specifically to heighten its impact. With punctuated musical notes in the background, these moments are consciously disruptive, first with the mere presence of vivid Technicolor amid the monochrome Victorian environment and then in observing the full nuance of the putrefied being underneath Dorian Gray's skin. Unlike people who cannot bear to look at themselves in the mirror after they've done something unforgivable, Dorian Gray finds it difficult to pry away from looking at the person he's become, and the disquieting brushstrokes that compose this adaptation makes it difficult for the audience to look away as well.
The Technicolor inserts of the gory portrait caused a buzz among audiences; its surface seems to be painted with bloody entrails. The portrait records all of the horror that the rest of the films scrupulously avoids. Perhaps the most intriguing about ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is the painting itself, becoming its own intermittent character as it reaches its final grotesque form through a brilliantly macabre painting from Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, commissioned specifically for the film. Director Albert Lewin understood the power of the painting, too, both in the narrative and Ivan Le Lorraine Albright's work itself, evidenced by his strategic, poignant usage of Technicolor several times throughout the film specifically to heighten its impact. With punctuated musical notes in the background, these moments are consciously disruptive, first with the mere presence of vivid Technicolor amid the monochrome Victorian environment and then in observing the full nuance of the putrefied being underneath Dorian Gray's skin. Unlike people who cannot bear to look at themselves in the mirror after they've done something unforgivable, Dorian Gray finds it difficult to pry away from looking at the person he's become, and the disquieting brushstrokes that compose this adaptation makes it difficult for the audience to look away as well.
After all the polite restraint, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ doesn't leave much room for moral ambiguity. Albert Lewin's search for high art is ultimately compromised by the censor edict that all immoral behaviour be countered with an endorsement of religious values. At the fade-out, Lord Henry Wotton does a complete character flip-flop, asking for heaven's mercy. The last image is of a poetry verse, in a book displayed like a fancy Bible.
The real piece de resistance in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is the hideous portrait which was painted by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright. He was hired after director Albert Lewin saw a painting of his at the Art Institute of Chicago entitled “That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do.” In the film, Ivan Le Lorraine Albright created four portraits showing Dorian Gray's gradual dissolution and, in the final scene, where Dorian Gray's true nature is revealed on canvas, the elegant black-and-white cinematography that you already know that it suddenly bursts into Technicolor, creating a startling effect. Equally memorable is a murder scene staged beneath a wildly swinging chain lamp, an effect that would be duplicated by Alfred Hitchcock in ‘Psycho’ some fifteen years later.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Despite some noticeable issues with print damage, flickering, and intermittent softness, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ received a sort of suitable DVD transfer with admirable contrast and film-grain presence some six year prior to the release of this Blu-ray, issued by Warner Archive Collection division. Certain scenes, however, still showed a dire need for a thorough restoration; the one that comes to mind is Dorian Gray's speckled and unstable walk through the fog in London. Through a phenomenal new restoration, Warner Archive Collection have presented a 1.37:1 framed aspect ratio, with a stunning 1080p encoded digital transfer that reinforces previous strengths and nixes almost all of the negatives, culminating in a sublimely balanced, detailed, and natural image. Black levels are incredibly strong, if perhaps a bit too heavy in a few scenes and easily seen as part of the filmmakers' intent, while fine details in music sheets, the etching of the Egyptian statue, and the strokes in Dorian's painting are all satisfyingly sharp. And when it comes to damage, especially in that thick fog sequence, the vast majority of the blips, lines, and hairs have been excised and a few are still present for the eagle-eyed.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – There's an aged thinness to the film's original soundtrack that can't really be shaken off, but Warner Bros. 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono handles the mono mix with aplomb. Dialogue and the voiceovers carry the film's vintage, but they're surprisingly even and articulate at most points (a few scenes where characters talk from a distance are mildly obscured), and highly responsive to their environments. Negligible hiss is a trade-off for the immensely satisfying clarity of the sound effects that they bring about, such as the organic thump of piano keys, the setting-down of a tea set, the stabbing of a blade into a wood desk, and the clank of a glass goblet being gently set on a table. The music score is robust and cooperates with the film's age rather well, while the musical numbers in the Two Turtles are impressively pronounced and free of distortion. English subtitles are available, though they're unfortunately of the glaring yellow variety.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Dame Actress Angela Lansbury and Film Historian Steve Haberman: Steve Haberman provides a wealth of detail about the making of Dorian Gray and the cast and crew responsible for it, while at the same time interviewing Lansbury, who was a new face in Hollywood when she made this film but was a respected veteran of stage and screen when she recorded this commentary. Having worked with many of her fellow cast members (e.g., Hurd Hatfield and George Sanders) on subsequent projects, Dame Angela Lansbury's sense of them as both actors and people is vivid and familiar, and she speaks of them with great affection. This is an essential commentary, both for fans of Dorian Gray and for anyone interested in how the old studio system worked.
Special Feature: Oscar® Winning Short: Stairway to Light  [480i] [4:3] [10:22] This OSCAR® winning drama film short from 1945, and it won an Academy Award® in 1946 for Best Short Subject (One-Reel). It recounts the history and more accurately, the legend of 18th Century French physician Philippe Pinel, who is generally credited with revolutionising the treatment of mental patients to shift the focus from confinement to treatment. The actors appearing in this short film are as follows: Harry Cording, Lotte Palfi Andor, Dewey Robinson, Gene Roth, Harry Wilson and Wolfgang Zilzer. Narrator: John Nesbitt. Director: Sammy Lee.
Tom & Jerry Oscar® Winning M-G-M Cartoon: Quiet Please!  [480i] [4:3] [7:36] This Tom & Jerry M-G-M Cartoon is about Spike the dog who is attempting to sleep and if there's any commotion that wakes him up he will beat Tom the cat to a pulp. Out of this simple plot, comes one of the best Tom and Jerry shorts, as Jerry does pretty much everything in his power to get Spike to wake up so Tom can get a vicious beating. It won the OSCAR® for Best Short Subject Cartoon for 1945. Kudos all round!
Theatrical Trailer: The Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ [480i] [4:3] [2:26] "The most unusual story to ever reach the screen!"
Finally, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is often described as a horror film, but I would characterise it more as a drama with a single supernatural device, namely the transference to the portrait from its subject. Once that central conceit is accepted, everything else flows logically from the character of Dorian Gray, as he falls under the influence of Lord Henry Wotton. Oscar Wilde's novel offered a metaphor for a life outside of time and free from the consequences of one's actions that has exerted a powerful hold on the popular imagination for over 120 years since its publication. Warner Archive Collection has been given this memorable film adaptation a stunning excellent presentation on this Blu-ray disc. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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