Classic horror-thriller, released in 1945. It was directed by Albert Lewin, who also wrote the screenplay, based on Oscar Wilde's novel. The beautiful black-and-white cinematography was provided by Harry Stradling, Sr. The stars of the film included Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray, George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton, Donna Reed as Gladys Hallward, Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane, Peter Lawford as David Stone, Lowell Gilmore as Basil Hallward, Richard Fraser as James Vane, and Douglas Walton as Allen Campbell.
You know the plot, right? Handsome but innocent Dorian Gray wishes that his just-completed portrait will grow old while he stays young and beautiful forever. After embarking on a lifetime of debauchery, he watches as the painting slowly grows more and more hideous to reflect Gray's growing cruelty, carnality, and general wickedness. After finally repenting of his evil ways, Gray stabs his portrait, causing the man and the painting to switch places -- the portrait young and handsome again, and Gray gruesome, deformed... and thoroughly dead.
I enjoy this movie, but I recognize that it can be a bit slow-moving and devoid of jump-in-your-seat scares for anyone who's used to the pace and style of modern horror films. There's very little violence, and the scenes of Gray's debauched revels aren't any more shocking than Gray going to seedy dives, drinking, and watching dancing girls. Hatfield's Dorian Gray is indeed a pretty, pretty man, but his mostly unemotional performance can seem odd. However, I think it works very well for pointing up Gray's eternal, unchanging youth and beauty.
Many of the best scenes in the movie belong to George Sanders, whose Lord Henry, looked up to by Gray as a paragon of immorality, acts as something of a stand-in for Oscar Wilde, delivering a slew of Wilde's pithy put-downs and witticisms.
The famous portrait itself is a lurid, leering grotesquerie. The painting is wisely kept under wraps as often as possible, and on the few times it is brought out for display, the film switches from black and white to full, howling, shock-value technicolor. The painting was created by Ivan Albright. It took him about a year to finish, and it's now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. I hear it's even on display and is considered more disturbing in person than it was on film.
Hardcore fans of Wilde's novel should be warned that this film is probably going to let them down. Like any adaptation of a book, the movie takes some liberties with the novel's plot. You may feel that Lansbury was miscast as Sibyl Vane, or that Hatfield is just not handsome enough. You may feel that the film fails to capture the mood of the novel, or its ideas, or its wit. You may need to prepare yourself to face some degree of disappointment. If you're not a rabid fan, and if you can deal with the slow pace, you might just wanna check this one out.
Some research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)