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USA 1945
Directed by
Albert Lewin
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Picture Of Dorian Gray

With its menacing shadows, occult references and studio exteriors Albert Lewin's adaptation (he wrote the screenplay) of Oscar Wilde's intriguing exploration of freedom and morality sometimes looks as if it could have been directed by Val Lewton, not that that is a bad thing.

In its early stages the film appears to be a rather typical costume melodrama distinguished by the presence of George Sanders as the urbane Lord Henry Wotton, somewhat excessively, broadcasting Wilde's paradoxical bon mots whilst steering us to the main event. Once this begins and Dorian Gray moves centre-stage the substance of Wilde's theme, the oddly impassive, but ultimately compelling (bar his supposed piano playing), performance of Hurd Hatfield as Gray, Lewin's steady pacing and Harry Stradling's Oscar-winning photography come together to create an effective horror-cum-psychological thriller as Gray sinks deeper into the abyss to which Lord Henry (who is Wilde's self-image) has led him.

Rather coyly, perhaps as a result of compliance with the Hays Code, we are left to imagine Gray's decadence (although there are references to The Yellow Book, Aubrey Beardsley and Wilde himself, all we see are Gray's visits to East End dives). Angela Lansbury, an actress more convincing in her later career than the romantic roles of her younger years plays Sibyl Vane whilst Moyna MacGill, her real-life mother, has a small role as the Duchess and Cedric Hardwicke is the narrator.




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