Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

In writer-director Albert Lewin's black and white occult-horror fantasy drama based upon Oscar Wilde's story about a man's soul and its evil destiny - the Faustian themed tale told about the fate of a healthy, handsome, and young 19th century Victorian Englishman who bargained with his life:

  • the film's opening quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: "I sent my soul through the invisible, Some letter of that after-life to spell; And by and by my soul returned to me, And answered, 'I myself am Heaven and Hell'"
  • in London (1886), the character of young 22 year-old aristocrat Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) who was influenced by the words and urgings of cynical and witty old acquaintance Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) about yielding to life's pleasures and becoming hedonistic in one's youth, rather than suppressing one's desires: "There's no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral...Because the aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly. That's what we're here for. A man should live out his life fully and completely, give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream. Every impulse that we suppress broods in the mind and poisons us. There's only one way to get rid of a temptation and that's to yield to it. Resist it and the soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself. There is nothing that can cure the soul but the senses. Just as there is nothing that can cure the senses but the soul...What the gods give, they quickly take away. Time is jealous of you, Mr. Gray. Don't squander the gold of your days. Live. Let nothing be lost upon you. Be afraid of nothing. There is such a little time that your youth will last, and you can never get it back. As we grow older, our memories are haunted by the exquisite temptations we hadn't the courage to yield to. The world is yours for a season. It would be tragic if you realized too late, as so many others do, that there is only one thing in the world worth having, and that is youth"
  • the revelation of the painted portrait of Dorian Gray (seen in Technicolor) by his artist friend Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore), and Gray's distress when reminded by that he would not be handsome and youthful forever - Dorian wished for eternal youth - a Faustian bargain; completely obsessed with remaining youthful, Dorian Gray spoke to the painting in the presence of a statue of the ancient Egyptian goddess ("one of the 73 great gods of Egypt"), that he would "give my soul" if he could stay young forever and never grow old: "As I grow old, this picture will remain always young. lf it were only the other way. lf it were I who was always to be young, and the picture that was to grow old...I know now that when one loses one's youth, one loses everything...lf only the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now. For that I would give everything. Yes, there's nothing in the whole world I would not give. I would give my soul for that"
  • the many misdeeds of Dorian Gray, beginning with his intense love affair with singer Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury), the daughter of a tavern owner, whom he met at the Two Turtles Pub; she had a knightly-name for him "Sir Tristan"; but then abruptly rejected his fiancee, sent her a hurtful letter (and some cash as compensation): "You have killed my love. You have been false, not to me, but to the ideal I had formed of you. You used to stir my imagination. Now you are nothing to me. I will never see you again. I will never mention your name. I will never think of you. Henceforth, I shall live only for pleasure. Everything else is meaningless. And if this leads me to the destruction of my soul, then it is only you who are responsible...I have been living in a land of illusions. Now, I shall make an end of dreams. My real life begins. My own life, in which you cannot possibly have any part"
Sibyl's Reading of the Rejection Letter
The Portrait Began to Change
The Portrait: "The lines of cruelty about the mouth were unmistakable"
  • Dorian became increasingly concerned by the painting's slow transformation as he aged (although he remained good-looking and youthful) as he became more heartless, hedonistic, narcissistic, ruthless, mean and sinful - he worried that the painting changed after breaking off his engagement to Sibyl: "ln the dim, shaded light, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The expression looked somehow different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was very strange. There was no doubt that the whole expression had altered. The lines of cruelty about the mouth were unmistakable"; when he began to have second thoughts (and screened off his portrait), he learned from Lord Wotton that Sibyl had committed suicide by poison, and thence blamed himself: "So I have murdered Sibyl Vane, as surely as if I'd cut her throat"
  • Dorian Gray locked the painting away in his school-room attic ("The picture could be safely hidden away there") as it began to truly reflect and reveal the nature of his soul, disclosing his real evilness and corruptive life (including loose women, opium dens, etc.): "Here among the innocent souvenirs of his childhood, the hideous portrait would be forever hidden away. The face painted in the canvas could grow bestial, sodden and unclean. No one would ever see it. No one, except himself. He was to have eternal youth, while the portrait bore the burden of his shame"
  • years later when Dorian was 40 (although still looked like he was 22), painter Basil demanded to see the painting locked away in Dorian's attic - the portrait was again revealed in full color: ("ln spite of the indescribable corruption of the portrait, Basil was still able to recognize his painting of Dorian. It was from within, apparently, that the foulness and horror came. It was as if some moral leprosy were eating the thing away"); when Basil attempted to warn Dorian and pleaded with him to reform his life after seeing the changed portrait corrupted by secret sins, Dorian went into a panic and murdered Basil by stabbing him to death in the back, and then hid his body in the room with the painting; he was able to blackmail scientist friend Allen Campbell (Douglas Walton) into secretly disposing of the corpse; later, Campbell suicidally killed himself in misery
  • Sibyl's brother James Vane (Richard Fraser), who was seeking revenge for the suicidal death of his sister 18 years earlier, was accidentally shot and killed during a hunting accident, when he was hiding in bushes during his stalking of Dorian
  • Dorian became acquainted with Basil's niece Gladys Hallward (Donna Reed), and soon seized her away from her noble suitor David Stone (Peter Lawford); however, a stealty Stone divulged that he had entered Dorian's locked attic room and had seen the horrid painting created by Gladys' uncle: ("A sort of middle-aged, mad, gruesome uncle with a debauched face and blood all over him... the eyes shine in an evil way that's indescribable"); during the revelation of the evil of Dorian's portrait, Gladys received a rejection letter from Dorian himself - he claimed it would be wicked to marry her and he would spare her: "Once I said that if I were to marry you, it would be an incredible wickedness. You thought it was a way of saying that I didn't love you. You must know that I do love you, more than anything in the world. But I can only bring disaster on those who love me. If you knew how I've already wronged you, you would turn from me in horror. You will never see me again. Try to remember me, dear Gladys, without bitterness. This is the only good thing I have ever done"
  • the concluding shocking scene of Dorian's viewing of his own painting - curious to see what the effects of his behavior had been upon it ("Would there be any sign of his one good deed in the portrait?"); the ravages of sin and withered aging were shown in the hideously-aged painted portrait of Gray (while he remained young, vain and handsome)
  • he attempted to stab the heart of his image in the picture (with the knife used to stab and kill Basil) to release his awful visage and the spell that had been cast upon him, but he actually stabbed his own heart; he collapsed to the floor ("The knife that had killed Basil Hallward would kill his portrait also and free him at a stroke from the evil enchantment of the past. But when the knife pierced the heart of the portrait, an extraordinary thing happened"); he began to pray for forgiveness -- "Pray, Father, forgive me for I have sinned. Through my fault, through my most grievous faults"
Dorian Viewed the Portrait One Last Time and Then Stabbed Its Heart
The Painted Reverted Back To Its Original
Dorian Gray Took On The Hideous Characteristics of the Portrait
  • miraculously, he took on the hideous and deformed characteristics of the painting - while the painting reverted back to its original depiction of Dorian as a young man (as a swinging lamp cast ominous shadows); when his body was discovered, it had taken on grotesque, monstrous features; Lord Wotton, Gladys and David burst into the room and gasped at the sight: ("Wotton: "Heaven forgive me. Take Gladys home, David")

Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield)

Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) - The Virtues of Hedonism

Dorian's Original Portrait (in Technicolor)

Egyptian Statue of Goddess

Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury)

The Revelation of the Hideous Portrait in the Attic (in Technicolor)

Stabbing Death of Basil by Dorian - Silhouetted Before the Aged and Disfigured Painting

Gladys (Donna Reed) with Suitor David Stone (Peter Lawford)

Suicidal Death of Allen Campbell

The Conclusion:

Knife Through the Heart of the Portrait (Seen From Behind)


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