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The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Poster

Trivia

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Years after the movie premiered, a friend of Hurd Hatfield's bought the Henrique Medina painting of young Dorian Gray that was used in the movie at the MGM auction, and gave it to Hatfield. On March 21, 2015 the portrait was put up for auction at Christie's in New York (from the Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth) with a pre-auction estimate of between $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $149,000.
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In Oscar Wilde's original novel Sybil was a sophisticated Shakespearean actress, not a vaudeville 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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Oscar Wilde's Dorian was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and highly emotional, but Albert Lewin's conception of Dorian was of an icy, distant character.
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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 Albright, better known as a sculptor, was also commissioned to create a painting of the young Dorian for the film, although his work went unused. Henrique Medina did the portrait seen in the film. The March 27, 1944 issue of Life magazine included a story and photos of the brothers working on their paintings for the film.
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The movie is black and white except for four times when Dorian Gray's picture is shown in color.
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Donna Reed didn't enjoy making this movie because she was promised the role played by Angela Lansbury.
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Moyna MacGill (Duchess) was the mother of Angela Lansbury (Sibyl Vane).
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According to Angela Lansbury, a friend of hers, Michael Dyne, was considered for Dorian. 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 both Cukor and Albert Lewin the same day and was cast for her first two films.
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Basil Rathbone campaigned in vain for the part of Lord Henry and believed that his typecasting as Sherlock Holmes was the reason he failed to get it. MGM's loaning of Rathbone to Universal to play Holmes was very profitable for the studio, another reason for not casting him.
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Angela Lansbury lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to Anne Revere, who played her stalwart mother in the cherished family adventure, National Velvet (1944), a film in which Lansbury was assigned what she long considered a secondary role.
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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 appear in the novel but not as Gladys Hallward. She & Dorian are dining with the duchess & Harry.
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Laird Cregar, who had come to notice in Hollywood by playing Oscar Wilde on stage, was considered for the role of Lord Henry.
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Already established as a cabaret singer, 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 films, her singing would be 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 film, 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 appears in the carriage at the beginning of the film, 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 19th century Romanticism themes such as despair, the woes of living, women and unrequited love.
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In a scene, Dorian reads a poem to Sybil and then she asks who wrote it. Dorian says "a brilliant young irishman out of Oxford. His name is Oscar Wilde.". Oscar Wilde is the author of the original novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
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The original canvas of the final version of Dorian's portrait, the corrupted, decrepit Dorian painted by Ivan Albright, hangs in the Art Institute Chicago.
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The opera Don Giovanni is 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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Dorian Gray's piano is a "square grand piano." This is one of many experimental types that were developed in the early 18th century when the instrument was relatively young. The square grand became very popular in the early 19th 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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Gladys learns that Dorian 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, 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 home 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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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 film takes place in 1886.
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Final film of Charles K. French.
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As with the story of Don Giovanni, which is referred to in this story, there is a scene in which it appears that a statue has come to life.
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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 it's back to all of his guests. Later, when Gray and Gladys are discussing good and evil, the Buddha statue has it's back towards Gray.
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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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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 the playroom / schoolroom of 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 vs the immortal is a central theme of this story, that is, a life spent in pursuit for mortal passions that must eventually end vs 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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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's vision of Dorian as one of King Arthur's knights.
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Abert Lewin, the director, was obsessed with retakes. In Dorian Gray, in asked for one hundred and ten retakes and ended up using only one.
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This film received its initial television broadcast in Seattle Sunday 24 March on KING (Channel 5), followed by Philadelphia Friday 29 March 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Portland OR 2 April 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by New Haven CT 5 April 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Altoona PA 13 April 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Chicago 21 April 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Binghamton NY 27 April 1957 on WNBF (Channel 12), by Abilene TX 16 May 1957 on KRBC (Channel 9), and by New York City 18 May 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2); but it's first Los Angeles telecast did not take place until 30 March 1958 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by San Francisco 6 June 1958 on KGO (Channel 7) and Minneapolis 7 August 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 die.
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After Sibyl Vane has killed herself, Basil Hallward gives Dorian a copy of The Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold in 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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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 herself.

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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