Weekend Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s novel has been adapted numerous times, most famously in this Oscar (and Hugo) winning production from 1945.1

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Director: Albert Lewin
Written by Oscar Wilde, Albert Lewin.


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
Richard Frasher as James Vane

Full cast and crew details may be found at the imdb

Available from Amazon.


A man covers his increasingly debased lifestyle with a respectable façade— and hides the truth behind his apparently perpetual youth in his attic.

High Point

Lewin and the crew have crafted a visually stunning film, with museum-like sets and beautifully-framed scenes. Most of the film has been shot in black and white, and makes full use of the depth of focus possible. Dorian Gray shifts to color on four occasions; this technique may not appeal to all viewers.

Low Points

Too much of the film has been left to overdone narration and expository dialogue.

The film moves at quite a slow pace, and while it captures the elegance and staginess of the Victorian upper class, the seedy lowlife dens need to be a good deal sleazier and scarier.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6. This is (I believe) the first sound adaptation of the famous novel, and fairly faithful. The homoerotic elements of the original (a huge source of controversy in the Victorian era) have been minimized in the film.

Effects: 5/6. Save for some odd compositing, Dorian Gray has few effects. I’ll give it 5/6 for the Albright painting.2

Story 5/6

Acting: 4/6. The acting is generally good, though (even for the time) too reminiscent of the stage. Modern audiences may grow impatient with the heavily stylized performances.

Production: 6/6.

Emotional Response: 4/6. This is traditional gothic horror of the more subtle variety.

Overall: 5/6.

Psycho echoes one scene from this film closely, though I have no idea if this was intentional or accidental.

In total The Picture of Dorian Gray receives 33/42.


1. The film won for best cinematography and best actress (Angela Lansbury). Dorian Gray also took the 1946 Hugo for best dramatic presentation—- retroactively presented in 1996.

2. Ivan Le Lorraine Albright‘s painting, commissioned for this film, now hangs with other works by the noted artist at the Art Institute of Chicago.