Picture of Dorian Gray [1945]

These nip/tuck, Botoxed times would seem to be ripe for a remake of Oscar Wilde's ageless story of youth-worshiping aristocrat Dorian Gray. Until then, we have this 1945 prestige production starring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian, who, under the influence of the incorrigible Lord Henry Wotton, vows to live only for pleasure and to give in to all "exquisite temptations." While he sinks into a vile life of decadence and corruption, he remains young, while his painted portrait becomes "an emblem of his own conscience," growing more hideous as Gray becomes more monstrous. Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Academy Award for her heartbreaking performance as innocent singer Sibyl Vane, the first victim of Gray's callousness. George Sanders is at his contemptuous best as the cynical Lord Wotton, wringing every drip of disdain out of such Wilde-isms as, "I always choose my friends for their good lucks and my enemies for their good intellects." This pristine transfer does full justice to the film's Oscar-winning black and white cinematography (with vivid Technicolor inserts of the mesmerizing painting). With entertaining extras that replicate an old fashioned night at the movies, including a trailer and two Oscar-winning shorts, the Tom & Jerry cartoon, "Quiet Please" and "Stairway to Light," and affectionate, detailed, and illuminating commentary by Lansbury and film historian and screenwriter Steve Haberman, this DVD is suitable for framing. --Donald Liebenson

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