The Picture of Dorian Gray ★★★★

This adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel from 1890 has great MGM production values (in terms of cinematography, costume and set design) and is quite well-done, in spite of the need (in Hollywood of 1945) to not be too explicit about Dorian Gray's decadent activities. It's the famous Victorian gothic story of a beautiful young man who doesn't age over 20 years while his portrait does, revealing the effects of his immoral debauchery in the painting only.

Hurd Hatfield plays Dorian coolly and dispassionately, which is quite right for the title character. George Sanders is the perfect choice for Lord Henry (who seems to be Wilde's alter ego), tossing off witty and cruelly sardonic epigrams throughout. And it's nice to see the young Donna Reed and Peter Lawford at the start of their careers. The big standout for me, however, was Angela Lansbury who plays the tragic working class music hall singer Sybil Vane who is seduced by Dorian, signally his downward spiral. The song she sings (a number of times) in the film "Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird" is hauntingly beautiful and representative of her character's plight. I kept hearing the song after the film ended.

Interestingly, Hatfield came to regret taking on this role because he was identified with it throughout his career. There are rumors he was gay, and the storyline clearly has a gay subtext although MGM carefully conceals it. I had seen this film many years ago, and I was glad to rewatch it. An unusual film for its period, and well-worth seeing.

I saw this on the Watch TCM app, and it is only around for a few more days if anyone reading this wants to catch it streaming.