If only it was the picture who was to grow old, and I remain young. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t give for that. Yes, I would give even my soul for it.
Sky roommate has been reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and I decided that it was the perfect time to include a post on this film version of the book.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorite classics novels, and this movie did a pretty good job of keeping things similar making only a few changes.
Dorian Gray is a handsome, wealthy, young man living in 19th century England. While he is an intelligent and educated young man he is very naive and easily manipulated. Because he is young and wants to belong, he is a people pleaser, and easily changes his opinions and views to suit what others think.
He is having his portrait done by the accomplished artist Basil Hallward. One day, Basil’s friend Lord Henry Wotton stops by right before a painting appointment. Basil tries to get rid of his friend as he knows that Lord Henry’s cynicism will only destroy Dorian’s innocence and good humor. In fact Basil has been trying to keep them apart for a long time now. However, it doesn’t work as Dorian shows up for his appointment while Lord Henry is still there.
Dorian is quickly taken with Lord Henry’s “wisdom” and “philosophy”. Lord Henry tells Dorian that the only life worth living is one dedicated entirely to pleasure. Lord Henry convinces Dorian that youth and beauty will bring him everything he desires, and that once its over his life is too.
Dorian becomes depressed at hearing this and nothing Basil says will help him. While Dorian is being painted he wishes that his portrait could age instead of him. He makes this statement in the presence of a certain Egyptian statue, which supposedly has the power to grant wishes. (In the book, there is no mention of an Egyptian statue, in fact in the book they never explain how he stays young forever.)
Dorian’s wish is granted and his soul is transferred to the painting. Now the painting ages instead of him.
Now that Dorian is only after beauty and pleasure he goes and visits a tavern and falls in love with Sybil Vane, a singer/entertainer. (In the book she was an actress who performed wonderfully and Dorian fell in love with her acting). Dorian hasn’t told Sybil what his name is yet, so she refers to him as Sir Tristan her knight. Sybil is played by the wonderful Angela Lansbery. Donna Reed really wanted this part, but was given another instead.
Unfortunately, when Lord Henry finds out about Dorian and Sybil and their plans to marry; he is none too pleased. He gives Sybil a “virtue test” which she fails. (In the book Sybil couldn’t pretend to suffer or be in love with her fellow actors as all her love and emotion for Dorian eclipsed them).
The next morning, Lord Henry informs Dorian that Sibyl killed herself. Dorian is freaked out and feels guilty but copies his mentor Lord Henry and acts indifferent. He goes to the opera right after and lives it up. That night, Dorian sees a change in the portrait. It now has a cruel look to the face and Dorian hides it away, afraid that others will see it. He continues his sinful and heartless life.
Time passes by and Dorian is now entering into his 40th birthday, but even at 40 he looks as young and beautiful as ever. The painting has now become a truly terrible thing to gaze upon and is locked away from everyone. Dorian even let go of all his old servants who might see it.
Ivan Le Lorraine Albright’s famous painting of the decayed Dorian Gray – which took approximately one year to complete – is now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has been on display for many years.
I can’t reveal the rest of the film as if you haven’t read the book it will give away the ending. You should definitely read the book and check out this film.
Another thing that is different from the book is that they add an additional relationship. In the movie Basil has a niece, Gladys (played by Donna Reed), that has always had a crush on Dorian and now that he remains young and she has gotten older they are able to connect and fall in love.
Another interesting thing they did with this film is that the movie is all in black and white except for four times when Dorian Gray’s picture is shown in color. This really allows you to view the full horror of the changing image.
Sorry to end so abruptly but I’m telling you, you really should read and watch it yourself. I would hate myself for ruining it for anyone out there.