Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Casting of Dorian Gray

Turner Classic Movies showed the 1945 MGM version of The Picture of Dorian Gray Saturday night. The crisp black and white film gives way to technicolor for the sight of the famous portrait and Dorian Gray's Mayfair house is gorgeously filled with works of art and culture. Hurd Hatfield plays Dorian and according to the TCM article, his casting as the evil Dorian Gray was thought so perfect that it hurt him for other roles. He did play Pontius Pilate in King of Kings, but did not have the career success expected from such a good beginning, although some critics said he was too impassive and restrained.

MGM added a subplot: a romance between Peter Lawford and Donna Reed. After I watched the movie, I wondered if Peter Lawford should have played Dorian Gray instead of Hurd Hatfield. His physical beauty equaled Hatfield's and he would have added some joie de vivre to the role. Lawford as Gray would have been more emotional and moved by the pleasures he sought. It would have been unexpected casting and could have even affected the audience more to see such a handsome and wholesome looking young man turn to such evil hedonism. Hatfield seemed so different from the start, such a pristine and perfect Adonis, as Lord Henry Wotton called him. As Lord Henry, George Sanders is perfect from the beginning of the picture, reading Les Fleurs de Mal in his carriage and proclaiming Wilde's "mal mots" with world-weary languor and humor.

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