Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) is a wealthy young man of surpassing good looks and refinement. He commissions a full-length standing portrait of himself, and the artist includes a statuette of a cat as an element in the portrait. At the artist's studio Gray meets Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders), an idle aristocrat who introduces young Gray to the philosophy and practice of living a completely amoral life dedicated solely to pleasure. Immediately impressed by Lord Henry's views, Dorian Gray expresses the wish that his portrait would age while he himself would never show the effects of the passing years. "I would give anything for this" Gray declares quietly, "I would give my soul." Lord Henry cautions him that he should take care in proposing such a bargain in the presence of "that cat", as it is one of the 73 gods of ancient Egypt, and quite capable of granting the request.
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.