Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray

The way in which I’ve first become aware of literary works has been quite varied.  This one I discovered quite by accident.  I was probably around 28 years old and was looking forward to watching A Tale of Two Cities on the TNT network (the great, classic 1935 version with Ronald Coleman of course).  It didn’t come on until late at night so when I began watching, I switched on the VCR (yes, this was in a world before TiVo) so that “if I fell asleep” I would be able to watch the rest of the movie the next day.  Well, of course I fell asleep off and on all night long, but the serendipitous side of this story is that the movie that came on after A Tale of Two Cities was none other than the 1945 version of  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” starring Hurd Hatfield in the title role.  I woke the next morning with a vague memory of being intrigued by “some other movie” with a haunting musical score and snappy dialogue.  I ended up watching the whole thing the next morning and then several other times in the next few years.  It became one of my “all-time” favorite movies in fact.

For those who don’t know, the novel is the story of a young, “beautiful” man in London who poses for a painting by the artist, Basil Hallward.  During the portrait’s creation, Dorian’s friend, Lord Henry Wotton, mentions that the portrait “will remain forever young” while Dorian himself ages.  Dorian later says “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 2

Dorian Gray’s picture before the “corruption” sets in…

and after…

And of course, his wish is “granted”…

The 1945 movie takes some liberties with the plot, but also leaves several of the better quotations intact.  There are also some scenes of the movie that are shot in technicolor – as in the shocking ‘reveal’ of what the picture has become while Dorian remains young.  Rent or buy this movie.  Now.  🙂

P.S.  Yes, that’s a young Angela Lansbury in the movie poster, in the role of Sybil Vane (one part of the novel that the movie drastically changes)

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