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The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Poster

Trivia

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Several years after this movie premiered, a friend of Hurd Hatfield's bought the Henrique Medina painting of young Dorian Gray that was used in this movie at an MGM auction, and gave it to Hatfield. On March 21, 2015, the portrait was put up for auction at Christie's in New York City (from the Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth) with a pre-auction estimate of between five thousand and eight thousand dollars. It sold for one hundred forty-nine thousand dollars.
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Oscar Wilde's Dorian was blond-haired, blue-eyed, and highly emotional, but Writer and Director Albert Lewin's conception of Dorian was of an icy, distant character.
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This movie is black-and-white except for four times, when Dorian Gray's picture is shown in color.
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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. Albright's twin brother Malvin, better known as a sculptor, was also commissioned to create a painting of the young Dorian for this movie, although his work went unused. Henrique Medina did the portrait seen in this movie. The March 27, 1944, issue of Life Magazine included a story and photos of the brothers working on their paintings for this movie.
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Moyna MacGill (Duchess) was the mother of Dame Angela Lansbury (Sibyl Vane).
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In Oscar Wilde's original novel, Sybil was a sophisticated Shakespearean actress, not a vaudevillian waif. It is her willingness to give up her career, not her spending the night with Dorian, that causes him to break off with her.
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Donna Reed didn't enjoy making this movie because she was promised the role of Sibyl Vane.
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According to Dame Angela Lansbury, a friend of hers, Michael Dyne, was considered for the role of Dorian Gray. Dyne suggested Lansbury for the role of Sybil Vane. The casting director liked her for the part and suggested her to George Cukor for Gaslight (1944). She saw Cukor and Writer and Director Albert Lewin the same day and was cast for her first two movies.
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Basil Rathbone campaigned in vain for the part of Lord Henry Wotton and believed that his typecasting as Sherlock Holmes was the reason he failed to get it. MGM's loaning of Rathbone to Universal Pictures to play Holmes was very profitable for the studio, another reason for not casting him.
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Dame Angela Lansbury lost the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role to Anne Revere, who played her stalwart mother in the cherished family adventure, National Velvet (1944), a movie in which Lansbury was assigned what she long considered a secondary role.
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The name Dorian Gray is not a random choice. Dorian is a reference to the Dorians, who were the lowest and presumably the most depraved of the four states in ancient Greece. They are known for the destruction of the Minoans and for plunging the region into a dark age that lasted for three centuries. Gray, of course, is a reference to a tone that has no color, no passion and no emotion, which is the state that Dorian Gray assumes that makes it possible for him to endure the darkness in which he has enveloped himself.
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In the novel, Sybil Vane called Dorian Gray "Prince Charming", not "Sir Tristan".
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The character of Gladys appeared in the novel, but not as Gladys Hallward. She and Dorian are dining with the Duchess and Harry.
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Already established as a cabaret singer, Dame Angela Lansbury plaintively intoned "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird" (music and lyrics by C.W. Murphy and William Hargreaves) in this movie. Yet strangely, in her two subsequent MGM movies, her singing was dubbed by two phantom voices: Virginia Rees in The Harvey Girls (1946), a full-throttle Technicolor musical; and Doreen Tryden in The Hoodlum Saint (1946), a moody drama containing a couple of standards. In this movie, Doreen Tryden, interestingly, supplied the off-screen voice for Donna Reed's reprise of "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird".
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When Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) appears in the carriage at the beginning of this movie, he is reading "The Flowers of Evil/Les Fleurs du Mal" by Charles Baudelaire. It is a collection of romantic poems that was first published in 1857. Some topics in those poems include recurring nineteenth century Romanticism themes such as despair, the woes of living, women, and unrequited love.
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Laird Cregar, who had come to be noticed in Hollywood by playing Oscar Wilde on-stage, was considered for the role of Lord Henry Wotton.
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Dorian Gray's piano is a "square grand piano". This was one of many experimental types that were developed in the early eighteenth century when the instrument was relatively young. The square grand became very popular in the early nineteenth century because its design gave it the volume and much of the tone of a proper grand piano, but in a form that was more compact in size and more easily fit into the design of the typical drawing room. The design was able to work because the strings were arranged diagonally and with the soundboard at the side.
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The original canvas of the final version of Dorian Gray's portrait - the corrupted, decrepit Dorian painted by Ivan Albright - hangs in the Art Institute Chicago.
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Before placing the portrait in his childhood schoolroom and playroom, there is a knife that had previously been stabbed into the top of his school desk. After placing the portrait, Gray removes the knife and then throws it again, this time into the heart that had been carved into the desk when he was young. Later, when revealing the portrait, he repeatedly stabs the knife into the desktop. After his act of anger, which takes place while the creator of the portrait is praying for his soul, the swinging light shows gray being in and out of the light and the shadow of the lamp shade resembles the shape of a sharp-toothed mouth that appears to be consuming his friend, whose form is seen in shadow at the bottom of this mouth.
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In one scene, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) reads a poem to Sybil Vane (Dame Angela Lansbury) and then she asks who wrote it. Dorian says, "A brilliant young Irishman out of Oxford. His name is Oscar Wilde." Wilde is the author of the original novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
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The opera "Don Giovanni" was mentioned at one point. As with this story, that of Don Giovanni involves an inanimate work of art. In that case, a statue that drives the story to its conclusion.
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In the playroom/schoolroom of Dorian Gray's youth is a chalkboard. Written on the chalkboard is the statement, "Non ignoravi mortalem isse", which loosely translates as "not ignoring to be mortal". The concept of the mortal versus the immortal is a central theme of this story, that is, a life spent in pursuit for mortal passions that must eventually end versus living a spiritual, and therefore immortal, life. This, along with the knife that had been stabbed into the desk, indicate that Gray's turn toward darkness had begun long before the portrait had been painted.
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Etched into the glass on either side of Doran's front door are the symmetrical images of a knight; presumably Tristam. Rather than looking towards the door, the figures are looking away.
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The dark musical piece that is heard repeatedly is Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude in D Minor", the last of the twenty-four pieces of "Opus 28". The set is widely regarded as one of the supreme achievements of solo piano composition. In an homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, the twenty-four pieces are written in all of the major and minor keys, beginning with C/A minor and progressing via the circle of 5ths to F/D minor. Chopin was personally the polar opposite to Dorian Gray, a man who struggled with illness and died young, yet left a lasting spiritual legacy that conveys immortality.
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Gladys Hallward (Donna Reed) learns that Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) does not love her, yet she feels compelled to continue the relationship. As this is taking place, she looks at an illustration in a book bearing the caption, "How Sir Tristam drank of the love drink." On the facing page is an illustration next to a selection of text referring to Tristam cutting off a woman's head. These are both references to his earlier relationship with Sybil Vane (Dame Angela Lansbury), who viewed Dorian as the romantic character Tristam. It is significant that the name Sybil is a reference to ancient Greek holy women who were the revealers of prophecy.
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Gray's house is decorated with a combination of Greek and Asian art, symbolizing the struggle between hedonism and enlightenment - the Dorians vs. Buddha; the two competing books of verse - that are central to the story of Dorian Gray.
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Above the "Non ignoravi" quote on the schoolroom blackboard is another: "Honi soit qui mal y pence", which is the motto of the Order of the Garter, and translates as "Shame on him who thinks evil of it." It is usually used to insinuate the presence of hidden agendas or conflicts of interest. The Order of the Garter and its relationship to chivalry ties into Sybil Vane's vision of Dorian Gray as one of King Arthur's knights.
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As this movie opens, Lord Wotton (George Sanders) is seen riding in a coach while reading "Les Fleurs du Mal" (The Flowers of Evil), a book of poetry by Charles Baudelaire. The poems deal with hedonism, eroticism, and self-gratification. The book created a scandal, and Beaudelaire and the publisher were prosecuted. Six of the poems were suppressed, and were not again published in France until 1949.
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This movie takes place in 1886.
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Final theatrical movie of Charles K. French (Club Member).
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The book on the life of Buddha is an element that juxtaposes the evil of Wooten's book with one representing good. In the scene about Gray's party, there is a statue of Buddha which is facing Gray, but has its back to all of his guests. Later, when Gray and Gladys are discussing good and evil, the Buddha statue has its back towards Gray.
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As with the story of Don Giovanni, to which is referred in this story, there is a scene in which it appears that a statue has come to life.
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Writer and Director Albert Lewin was obsessed with retakes. In this movie, he asked for one hundred ten retakes and ended up using only one.
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This movie received its initial television broadcast in Seattle, Washington on Sunday, March 24, on KING (Channel 5), followed by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Friday, March 29, 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Portland, Oregon on April 2, 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by New Haven, Connecticut on April 5, 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Altoona, Pennsylvania on April 13, 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Chicago, Illinois on April 21, 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Binghamton, New York on April 27, 1957 on WNBF (Channel 12), by Abilene, Texas on May 16, 1957 on KRBC (Channel 9), and by New York City, New York on May 18, 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2). But its first Los Angeles, California telecast did not take place until March 30, 1958 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by San Francisco, California on June 6, 1958 on KGO (Channel 7), and Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 7, 1958 on WTCN (Channel 11).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The blocks under the table in Dorian's school room have the initials of the people who died.
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Lord Wotton, who serves as the detached voice of temptation, shares the news of Sybil in a soulless and casual way while looking at a stereoscopic photo (of a scene of the past that is frozen in time, not unlike that of the portrait of Gray as a young and innocent man) and not coincidentally discussing the issue of perspective. This serves as a message that Gray's fate is set. It might be noted that Sybil's song of a beautiful bird trapped in a golden cage, is representative of Sybil. Lord Wotton then invites Gray to accompany him to a performance of the opera "Don Giovanni", a character whose story serves as an understated foundation of this story. In the opera, Giovanni pursues pleasure in a way advocated by Wotton and adopted by Gray. Despite Gray's decision to abandon that lifestyle and make things right, circumstances have made this impossible, and as with Giovanni, Gray's actions ultimately catch up with him. This also parallels the life of Oscar Wilde, the author of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", who, in real-life, seemed to be an amalgam of Wotton and Gray. Wilde's pleasure-seeking lifestyle ran afoul of the social norms of the day, resulting in his imprisonment, decline, and ultimately to his death.
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After Sibyl Vane (Dame Angela Lansbury) killed herself, Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore) gives Dorian a copy of "The Light of Asia" by Sir Edwin Arnold in an attempt to turn him away from the evil path he is on. This book was first published in London in July 1879. Its subject was about the life and times of Prince Gautama Buddha, who, after attaining enlightenment, became the Great Buddha. The book presented his life, character, and philosophy in a series of poetic verses.
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