Last night I watched the truly beautiful 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The film won an Oscar for best cinematography and was nominated for best art direction. In this instance, the Academy was spot on. These were definitely the strongest aspects of the film, and in precisely that order. Fascinating shadows, textured edges of ancient walls, exquisitely framed shots of staircases seen through drawing rooms, and even the titular painting was great, holding up to the praise of the narrative. Much narrative in this movie, taken, of course, from Wilde's book. Generally a cop out for a filmmaker, but I didn't mind in the slightest because it's always nice hearing Wilde read. The movie would have been appreciable as an abridged version of the book accompanied by images, but the gorgeous look of the thing elevates it.
Dorian was played by a guy named Hurd Hatfield, who was definitely not a good actor but, astonishingly, was absolutely perfect in the role. In fact, I almost think this was a job for a bad actor, and that a good actor would have made for a lesser movie.
His pretty, androgynous face barely moves throughout the whole movie. Which is, of course, perfect. His look was fabulous--not merely pretty and androgynous, but also slightly gaunt and a bit creepy. He looked like someone an artist would want to do a study of, and also like someone who may have sold his soul. His mask-like face, conveying little, never positively communicated a person who'd sold his soul for vanity or was just an innocent kid. The only problem I really had with him was that he couldn't do a British accent.
The supporting cast, meanwhile, was generally solid, including a very young Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane. Gods, it's weird thinking Angela Lansbury is hot.
George Sanders played Wilde's avatar, Henry Wotton, very well. It's with a kind of fascinated chill that I read on IMDb that he committed suicide in 1972, leaving a note that read, "Dear World: I am leaving because I am bored."