AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Picture of Dorian Gray
Director: Albert Lewin (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Mar 1945
Duration (in mins):  107 or 110
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Cast: George Sanders  (Lord Henry Wotton)
  Hurd Hatfield  (Dorian Gray)
  Donna Reed  (Gladys Hallward)

Summary: In London in 1886, Lord Henry Wotton's curiosity is aroused when his friend, artist Basil Hallward, devotes his energies to painting the portrait of a beautiful young Adonis named Dorian Gray. Lord Henry, a cynical idle aristocrat who finds pleasure in manipulating the lives of others, takes an interest in Dorian, advising him that youth is all too fleeting and that the pursuit of desire is the only real goal in life. Lord Henry's words strike a chord in Dorian, and as Basil completes his portrait, Dorian declares that he would give his soul if the painting would grow old while he remained forever young. Lord Henry then cautions Dorian about making a wish in the presence of his Egyptian cat statue, a figure capable of granting it. Inspired by Lord Henry's sentiments, Dorian begins to seek new adventures, and one day wanders into a cheap music hall where he is smitten by singer Sibyl Vane. The idealistic Sibyl addresses Dorian as "Sir Tristam," the name of a mythical, chivalrous knight. When Dorian tells Sir Henry that he plans to marry Sibyl, whom he describes as an antidote to his cynicism, Lord Henry suggests that he test her integrity by inviting her to see the portrait and then asking her to spend the night. At first, Sibyl refuses Dorian's unseemly request, but unable to displease him, agrees to his terms. Disillusioned, Dorian writes Sibyl that she has killed his love and he will never see her again. Troubled by his cruelty, Dorian glances at the portrait and notices that the face has grown hardened, a reflection of his own soul. Vowing to reform, Dorian writes a letter begging Sibyl's forgiveness. Just as he finishes it, Lord Henry arrives to inform him that Sibyl has committed suicide. When Lord Henry advises Dorian to expunge the incident from his mind, Dorian's guilt prompts him to assume an air of indifference. Basil comes to the house to reproach Dorian for his unconcern and notes that the portrait has been concealed behind a screen. After Basil leaves, Dorian decides to lock the painting in his old schoolroom amid the souvenirs of his innocent childhood. As the years pass, rumors of Dorian's changeless youth and strange debauchery intensify. Periodically, Dorian scrutinizes his portrait, which has become disfigured by his sins and his aging. The only person to whom Dorian remains vulnerable is Basil's niece Gladys, who has loved him since she was a child. Over the objections of her suitor, David Stone, Gladys impetuously decides to propose to Dorian, but he rejects her offer. One foggy night, Basil, on his way to Paris, visits Dorian to ask him to deny the unremitting rumors about his wicked ways. In response, Dorian offers to show Basil his soul and takes him to view the portrait, by now a monstrous testament to his venality. Realizing that Basil might reveal his terrible secret to Gladys, Dorian plunges a knife into his back, causing fresh blood to appear on the painting. Afterward, Dorian arranges for Allen Campbell, a chemist over whom he has a sinister hold, to dispose of Basil's body. Dorian then proposes to Gladys and she accepts. Months pass as the police search in vain for Gladys' missing uncle. Then one day, the police notify Dorian that Campbell has committed suicide. Throughout the years, Sibyl's brother, James Vane, has sought the man responsible for his sister's death, the man he knows only as "Sir Tristam." One night, in a cheap pub, Vane hears Dorian called Sir Tristam and follows him into the alley, intending to slay him. Upon discovering that Dorian is a young man, Vane thinks he is mistaken until he later learns Dorian's strange story. Vane tracks Dorian to his country estate, and while hiding behind a clump of bushes, awaiting his chance to slay Dorian, Vane is accidentally shot and killed by a hunter. Realizing that he is indirectly responsible for Vane's death, Dorian decides to break his engagement to Gladys and returns to London. Believing that by destroying his portrait he will be free of its evil spell, Dorian plunges a knife into its heart. As the knife pierces the painting, Dorian falls to the floor, mortally wounded. While Dorian fervently prays, the portrait slowly changes into the image of a beautiful young man. Soon after, Lord Henry, Gladys and David burst into the room and find the hideously disfigured body of an old man lying on the floor. 

Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Director: Albert Lewin (Dir)
  Earl McEvoy (Asst dir)
  Frank Myers (2d asst dir)
Producer: Pandro S. Berman (Prod)
Writer: Albert Lewin (Scr)

Subject Major: Cynics
  London (England)
  Moral corruption
  Portraits (Paintings)
Subject Minor: Aristocracy
  Brothers and sisters
  Great Britain--History--Social life and customs
  Snobs and snobbishness

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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