Sunday, July 18, 2010

Be careful what you wish for, it may just come true.

I am a big believer in the restoration of movies. Not replacing any original material or what not, but I am a believer in using modern technology to make films from so long go look and sound more attractive…

I think it makes it so much easier for the viewer to watch and  I find restored movies are not as distracting as a unrestored copy of the movie may have been. The reason I am blubbering about this is because I recently bought The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was first released in the year of 1945.

  Perhaps you have heard about the story, it’s a fairly renowned one. Or perhaps you were one of the few people who saw the newly made adaptation of the story that released only a year ago starring Colin Firth.  I have to admit that though I began to read the classic tale written by Oscar Wilde, I did not finish it all. So I had no real ideawhat I was really getting into when I first inserted my dvd into my PS2... Little did I know that I was going to enter a world very strange and different to my own; but at the same time seemingly real and very hypnotic.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one of the oddest and finest films I have ever seen. I think it was perfectly executed and I think that George Sanders and Angela Lansbury in particular shine the most in the film. But I will get to the actors, story and all that later. Let me fist fan girl annoyingly over the sheer quality of the copy I purchased.


I swear when it first began, I began to drool, because seriously it was picture perfect. Every little detail could clearly be seen, the lighting was all the more effective, there was no annoying crackle that some older movies have due to deterioration or anything. Everything about it from the first moment it began was flawless. The sound was pitch perfect and I don’t even have a HD tv or dvd player or anything like that. So I’m double excited.

I just find it so totally awesome that this little movie I bought for like six bucks, was so brilliantly restored. Then I realized that it had been re-distrubted by the Warner Brothers Company, and I smiled.  Warner Brother’s truly seems to be  doing its best to give us the best quality of old films (I have copies of Gone With The Wind and All About Eve, that were BEAUTIFULLY restored and redistrubted by the Warners Bro. company). I guess it’s because they’re the only ‘old film studio’ that is still very successful… I think they still want everyone to know about the films and time that made them such a major studio, by re-releasing the old movies.

And probably why they’re redistributing major films of MGM and RKO, I dunno…. Hmmm, I shall have to look into that.

 But anyway I’m off on  a tangent again, I apologise. You will soon find that sometimes I will write and blabber on. Don’t worry you will get used to it ;)

Anyway where was I?

Oh yeah, the movie.

So needless to say the quality was freakin fantastic. I mean seriously, I had to go back to the beginning because I was fangirling so much over the sheer quality that I missed the opening sequence… I am glad I did go back to the start or else I would have missed some of the best moments of the film.

  Dorian Gray

Now that I have undoubtedly bored you all to tears with my over long fangirling, let me delve into the movie itself.

The movie is primarily filmed in black and white. I say primarily because there are four sequences in the film that are filmed in beautiful technicolor. I was so surprised to read that that was how it was actually filmed, I thought that many years later some clever little restorers re-colored certain scenes, but no, that’s how it was actually filmed and viewed in 1945. To me that is simply astounding, I am not sure why it is, but it is.  It certainly gave a wonderful effect.

Dorian Gray is a young, easily led astray, handsome gentleman who permits Basil Hallward to do a portrait of him… Lord Henry Wotten is, in short, a wicked man. Well perhaps not wicked, but he certainly is the one who sets Dorian on to his path of doom, he is very idealistic, very bitter, very dark, sometimes unfeeling and always expresses his opinion even when not asked. It is while visiting Basil, his friend and meeting Dorian the first time, that  Henry does just that.

He praises the work of his friend Basil, who had now finished the portrait of Dorian in almost exact detail, taking time to loudly observe how handsome Dorian Gray is and what a pity it would be when Dorian grew old and gray and lost his youth. He cautions Dorian to enjoy his youth now because soon he will be old and regretful.

Thus plants the mad seed within Dorian’s head, the seed of thought and obsession over age and aging… Dorian wishes foolishly out loud that the beautiful portrait of himself, and not he, would age and bear the signs of experiences, while he, Dorian himself remained unchanged, looking like  a youth of twenty-two, forever…  He even says that he’d be willing to sell his soul or trade his soul for such a thing to happen.

You know what they say, right? Be careful what you wish for…

The movie shows the effects of having such a wish granted, the life Dorian ultimately has because of his obsessions and mad thoughts. It also shows how easily led astray he is by the manipulative Henry. As time goes on and unfortunate and dark things began to happen to and be caused by Dorian Gray, the portrait begins to change,  while Dorian remains seemingly ageless, the painting starts to reflect the change of  the person it was based on… As Dorian becomes more self absorbed, mean and cruel, the painting changes accordingly to show just how disgusting he has now become. And the end result is not a pretty one.

Though the story in an overview sounds very simplistic it is anything but. The movie is a fascinating insight to human nature, the struggles in which all of man kind deal with, how easy it is to be easily lead astray and how easy it is to let your life and the world around you become dark and darker.

The movie is quite simply, very intense. Even in today’s standards it still shocks people. I have to say that each time the canvas of the painting was shown in technicolor, I gasped. Because the image was still very gruesome and indeed, I am not ashamed to admit this, frightening.

The wonderful use of lighting, music, stage craft and camera angles really helped build the suspense.  It is, ladies and gentlemen, black and white film at it’s best.  The switch to color when we view the portrait to see how demented and strange the painting has become, really made it all the more clear how dark and disturbed Dorian had become and also I think it was a clever way of showing the ‘true colors of his soul’.

The costumes were beautiful, the make up… Oh my god the make up. And I don’t just mean the beautiful and glamorous make up of Angela Lansbury and Donna Reed, no I mean the make up at the end of Dorian Gray (or perhaps it was a dummy… either way it does not matter) was extremely haunting.  It was very witty and funny and I think above all, intelligent. No doubt this is because it was adapted from Oscar Wilde, still it’s nice to see intelligent ‘horror’ every now and then.

The movie is not without it’s flaws though, it is sometimes very long and very dialogue orientated, which I suppose cannot be helped, given it’s source.  But still it was very much worth sitting through the dull moments, to get to the good bits.

Some of the cast;

George Sanders is the stand out for me. I have only ever seen him in All About Eve, in which he made a great impression on me then too.  Now I know without doubt that he was one of the best actors of his generation- his voice can literally make you feel placated in one instance and horrified the next moment.  He was surprisingly very subtle in terms of technique something that was rarely seen in the 1930s-1940s particularly.

Angela Lansbury also deserves recognition for her performance, it is unlike any that I have seen her in. Poor dear, she was so na├»ve in this film.  And so beautiful.  She plays Dorian’s first ‘love’ and her ultimate death, spins Dorian into a life of selfishness and darkness. I think that it was a brave role for her, considering the other roles she had taken during that time (The Harvey Girls, for instance).  I like that she took a risk and that it very much paid off.  She is very memorable.

For some reason I love Peter Lawford. I know he was usually only on screen in any film for small periods of time, but there’s something about him that I very much like, so I enjoyed seeing him in this movie, in the small but nonetheless important role  of David Stone.

Donna Reed looked very beautiful in this film, but I found her bland. She stars as Dorian’s second love, his true love. She was very sweet and lovely, but as I said far too bland for my liking in this film, this is my personal opinion.

And last but not least Hurd Hatfield, who played the title character. He was very good, at times for whatever reason he reminded me psychically of Laurence Olivier, but they looked nothing alike! Oh well.  He delivered a very well rounded performance of a tortured soul and sometimes you felt  pity for him but most of the time you just wated to hit him over the head with a bread stick or something.  He was good, but he wasn’t as good as George or Angela.

This movie though made so many years ago, still holds up even to modern days audiences. The images in the film that were so horrifying to people back then, are still just as horrifying now. Which is not always the case.

I liked it a lot.  And if you like ‘horror’ you should too. 

The end result of a life of cruelty and unkindness...

All images belong to Warner Bros, MGM and the actors/actresses themselves. All links to where I got the images are provided for, if anyone has a problem with me using said images, let me know. I am in no way related to any of the actors, movie studios or whatnot. I am however very tired, it is 4.16 AM. The joys of studying, eh? >.<


  1. I heard they had Technicolor long before "Gone With the Wind" in the 30s, but they hardly used it, because too expensive. Whatever, I like black&white much more anyway: I look prettier in black&white myself, so why should I present my rather pale skin? And I do film in black&white, even with a brownly sephia-touch (my little sony-camera can do that nicely). When I saw Ginger the first time in "The Barkleys of Broadway", I was confused: "Heavens, that can't be Ginger!" It took me weeks until I was able to see a resemblance to my 30s Ginger. I rather see her in black&white..

    Yes, Warner Bros. does enhance the sound of classic films. I was excited when I heard the sound of "The Gold Diggers of 1933" - my very first Busby Berkeley DVD. I never heard the sound of an old 30s film so brilliantly. - Well, I know a little about sound engineering, had been working with a guy who had a studio years ago. Nowadays the possibilities are even greater.

    Today the mailman brought me the book "All-American Ads", C.K. Dexter Haven is talking about these days: There one can see how colorful the 30s have been. Partly the fashion looks absolutely modern too me. We have 30s fashion anyway in boutiques of the 2000s - you can also find pieces in department stores, that look like 30s' fashion.

    Maybe I will make a little comedy in black&white one day. The sound certainly must be very good, but the pictures please in black&white, with a sephia-touch. (;

  2. Oh I know what you mean I absolutely adore sephia as well, I often make my photos in a sephia tone too, I think this was influenced by Wizard Of Oz... I have a really good photo editing program called GIMP, and there are a different range of effects one can use to make it appear from a time long ago...

    Actually sound and color have existed all along, it was just very expensive to implement such things into movies and the general public was seemingly pleased enough with the new moving images that had plaque cards, that the company's just kept at it, as it where.

    I know that there are a few technicolor silent films out there, that were made long before this movie. And also Don Juan that was made in 1926 was the first of it's kind to use sychronized music... Of course there are also the cartoon shorts from then, and the Disney movies, so color and sound has always been around, it just wasn't used as much.

    I think that what astounded me about the color in this movie was because it went from black and white, then suddenly to color, then back again.And it was not at all distracting, it was very effective, but not at all distracting.

    That to me is simply wonderful. Hehe.

    I LOVE 1930s fashion, and I think that they are as you say still so very modern. I also love the early 1940s fashion, the smart suits, the beautiful hair... *sigh*

    I actually recently bought a modern-esque 1930 dress with a cute sweater, I love it and have been wearing it everywhere. XD

    I would love to see such a comedy!! I would probably be the first in line at my local cinema if you did release such a film :)

    I have often thought about making a silent film, a real silent film. Perhaps I shall one day and put it on youtube.

    I know what you mean, I have the copy of Nothing Sacred with Carole Lombard, it is her only color film and I tell you I did not recognize her!

    I think black and white films enhanced the environment and actors, they made everything seem so beautiful, because everything had to be lighted in a precise manner, etc.

    I don't know if you have seen Schindler's List, but it is the only modern film that I have seen to successfully re-enact the techniques of the golden age of cinema. That film, though of course very very harrowing and depressing, was beautifully shot.

    Ooooh Busby Berkeley restored, I can only imagine how wonderful that would be!! I find it incredibly cool that you know a bit about sound engineering.

    Hmmmm. I may have to order that book.

    I am sorry I haven't responded to your last comment on my first post yet, I keep meaning to and then get distracted with RL -.-

    But I will reply, I promise. :) Thanks for taking the time to read my long post again and taking the time to comment, as always, it is very much appreciated :D

  3. Nelly said...
    I actually recently bought a modern-esque 1930 dress with a cute sweater, I love it and have been wearing it everywhere. XD
    Nelly, WOW! This could be another issue - you could photograph that dress in sephia-black&white and then in color again. That'd be interesting ...

    These are 'normal' 1990' and 2000s' clothes, but after realizing how much they look 30s-like I stopped wearing them daily. But I wore them on my last jam-session and I used plenty of curlers ... - I guess most movie-bloggers don't find these clothes too hot, because they prefer fancy dresses with spangles and so, but my taste is different: I like street clothes of the 30s. I just wanna dive into the daily routine of the golden days.

    In August there'll be kind of living 20s in my town, and there will be sellers too on a market. They have 30s clothes too, I heard there'll be even a lady who makes hats! Well, I need a net-hat deperately!! Actually I had planed to spare some money this summer, but im 'afraid' I won't ... :)

    Nelly said...
    I would love to see such a comedy!! I would probably be the first in line at my local cinema if you did release such a film :)
    I think you shouldn't just watch. I hate watching and listening, I wanna be active myself. Well, I certainly love to watch my idols, but I hardly listen to live-bands - I'm just waiting for the next jam-session ...

    Nelly said...
    I have often thought about making a silent film, a real silent film. Perhaps I shall one day and put it on youtube.
    You can always make short films. Otherwise the work might eat you - above all your time. It's always nice to make a film with friends. But maybe they won't be your friends any longer after a 1hour-film project, because you had fuss with them all the time, because they just had different ideas about making a film ...
    For example I had to sing Lilly Marlene in our big movie. They filmed me outdoors singing at night with an old street lamp. Well, I don't like that song very much, so I twisted it around: I complicated the chords and put a great big Hollywood orchestra under my voice. That way I liked it, but all the Lilly-fans were just horrified. Our director was too, but I answered: "I can't do that flat stuff!" Well, he isn't a friend any more. :D

    blogspot said...
    ! Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters
    *sight* - just another post ...

  4. Nelly said...
    I know what you mean, I have the copy of Nothing Sacred with Carole Lombard, it is her only color film and I tell you I did not recognize her!
    I saw a 30s' ad yesterday in that new book. I think it was Lombard, was it? They showed her face two times: black&white and colored. And below they wrote something like: "The next time you'll meet her, you'll recognize her." This, Nelly, was an ad to promote technicolor! And I just found her face much prettier in black&white.

    Nelly said...
    I think black and white films enhanced the environment and actors, they made everything seem so beautiful, because everything had to be lighted in a precise manner, etc.
    I love those colorful car-ads - you always see brownly grey/black/white cars in old films. In those ads you see bright colors: yellow, red, whatever you like. Cars look beautiful in technicolor, but women aren't cars. :(

    Nelly said...
    I don't know if you have seen Schindler's List, but it is the only modern film that I have seen to successfully re-enact the techniques of the golden age of cinema. That film, though of course very very harrowing and depressing, was beautifully shot.
    This film is just important. It's politically necessary. I'm a quite political mind, don't consider history sort of funny playground.

    Nelly said...
    Hmmmm. I may have to order that book.

    Nelly said...
    I am sorry I haven't responded to your last comment on my first post yet, I keep meaning to and then get distracted with RL -.-
    Don't worry Nelly. You don't have to.

    Nelly said...
    But I will reply, I promise. :) Thanks for taking the time to read my long post again and taking the time to comment, as always, it is very much appreciated :D
    Now I'm afraid you might suffer, if you don't get a comment. There are many bloggers who never get a comment, because nobody cares for their stuff. And they're blogging and blogging - it seems they don't ask for comments. I wonder a bit about Renata. It seems she never answers comments on her blog: She just goes over to my blog and answers there (and all my followers don't know what we're talking about). I always like to dive into the discussion about my own issues. I find it most interesting. I even learn something myself. Desarae really changed my mind - I should tell her someday ...

    But Nelly, I'm used to read long text. I always kind of 'scan' over texts and skip "horror" or "sex and crime" automatically. But I stop scaning as soon as I realize aspects I'm interested in. I couldn't write anything about Cinderella - it's just a fairytale my mother once told me ... later I was kind of Cinderella myself.

  5. Perhaps I will take a photo of my newest outfit... I was also thinking of posting some photos I took that have a 1920s- 1930s vibe to them.

    WOW at that 20s thing coming to your town! I wish Australia had awesome things like that! Ah yes a net hat. I am lucky, my nanny kept some of hers so I have one or two. They're very beautiful and I think that in black and white movies in particular they add a touch of mystique and elegance to the wearer.

    I think it's great that you stuck to your guns and did what you wanted with the movie you made with your friends.And it probably made that song sound better anyway. :P

    I was thinking of a short film anyway, a very short film, probably only 10-15 minutes long.

    I know that I will not always get a comment on a post from people- but that's okay. I understand different posts will attract different types of audiences; or none at all. And as I do not comment EVERY blog entry I read and admire, I think it would be hypocritical of me to expect anyone to comment mine all the time. Besides, to be honest I do entries in this blog first and foremost for my own enjoyment. No amount of comments (though appreciated vastly) will ever compare to that feeling of happiness and exhilaration I feel when I write out all the inner thoughts of my mind about a particular subject and hit 'post'.

    So I am content either way. :)

    About Carole Lombard-- I think, and I do not mean to be at all insulting here but I think like Katharine Hepburn she had a very, shall we say, masculine face. She was beautiful but at the same time she had this boyish air about her, no doubt because she was a tom boy. I think black and white softened her features and made her appear more feminine, whereas I think color only made more apparent her sometimes harsh features...

    By the way I looked at the link you provided me about one of your blog entries, the clothes look very beautiful I have to say my favorite is the gray-brown coat! It's beautiful! And I love the skirt as well...

    Heh, well I better stop typing before blogspot offers me a warning like yours. Silly blogspot, I really think it ought just to let us write however much we'd like- then again, knowing me I'd probably write a 10 page comment if I wasn't stopped :P

  6. Your nanny must have been very very old. I never saw a net hat in a 50s film. Or did they wear such hats longer in Australia, than the rest of the world?

    I sure stuck to my guns, but didn't that make me a bad team worker? Today I'm against imitating string and brass instruments with a synthesizer. Those synthetic strings can't make me cry.

    Now I think I was silly, not to realize that it's probably politeness, if you thank for a comment so most gushingly. ;)

    Nelly, those quite feminine faces don't really look beautiful with makeup. This may be a reason why some people adore transvestites - although I think those people overdo this kind of liking: It seems there is no other scene in the world where people are that much crazy about a thing.
    Jean wanted to play Calamity Jane without any makeup in "The Plainsman". I would have liked that, but I'm afraid the masses wouldn't. They probably would've said: "Is this a boy ore a girl?"

    Please go on writing out your inner thoughts. You're not on duty here.

    It wasn't Carole Lombard, it was some other face. But the rest of my description of that ad was correct.

    Now Zoe gets quite long comments. I can't help it. It just happens.

  7. My nanny isn't that old- she keeps insisting that she's 21 years old XDDD

    But I think she got the hats from HER mother or something like that. My great nana seemed to be very fond of net hats, in all the photos that exist of her, she is wearing one.

    But it wouldn't surprise me at all if Australia was still wearing them long after USA and UK and Europe stopped. We were often very behind in things, especially movies. Nowadays it's not so bad, a month at the maximum in regards to music, movies, etc. But I don't know about fashion, I know in cars we are certainly very much behind.

    I believe an actor is more then what they look like or at the very least they should be. You're right that audiences back then probably wouldn't have accepted Jean Arthur without any make up on, while on film. Today we see lots of actresses go on screen without make up and be praised in doing so, but I can't help but think, back then, in the 1930s-1940s, with the beautiful lighting, etc, how wonderful a actress or actor would have looked any way, regardless of whether they had piles of make up on.

    Hahah but long comments are great and I'm sure she loves them just as much! :D

  8. So when you were a baby, your nanny was just a little child - and she wore net-hats ... Nelly, you should definitely make a film about this!

    WOW, now that my EeePC is repaired, I can really see something! I didn't expect the people in your creepy story looking that handsome. Believe me: on my old whirlybird it looked most creepy ...

    On a radio program I heard Australian men were quite sexist. Is that actually true? I mean they tell a lot of tales about far away countries. To be years behind should actually be the swellest thing for a Goldenholic: your nearer to the golden days. ;)

    I don't know. I had added a few example from Jean's career. Then Zoe came over with a few things she had read and I had to explain. As you know me, I explained and explained and explained ... Besides it was about Cohn and Cohn is my public enemy number one. He's the red rag and I'm the bull.

  9. Hahaha or so my nan would like to pretend, yes. :P

    Yay I'm glad your EeePC is repaired! Yes they were handsome, but still very creepy in the actual movie.

    Are you talking about men in todays generation or back then? Because I think the majority of society now is fairly equal, though I have to say sometimes it seems more men get more 'higher paid jobs' and they also get paid more then the average woman. So pay is not equal yet. But it's fairly equal as I said in other aspects, of course there are those who believe differently. We actually have just gotten our first female prime minister (granted it was though shady political backstabbings) but whatever. She is also much more popular then her opponent in the polls (who happens to be, sadly, a very egotistic and sexist male).

    When you phrase it like that it does seem swell; to think that we're close to the golden days *sighs* but still its a tad annoying :P Though it has to be said I live in a small country town so that may have something to do with it.

    Ooooh enemy number one, eh? Hehe sounds exciting/interesting.

  10. No, they talked about female emigrants to Australia on that radio program: They think it's swell and then they suffer, because they don't feel treated respectfully. But I don't believe what people tell about far away countries. Just to think what tall stories people tell about Jean. Humans are actually liars. The truth seems to bore most people, they like phony tales much better. But it's always a red rag to me, as Harry Cohn too:

    Actually I'm wasting my time. The phony tales are much easier than the truth and more entertaining. It's actually more entertaining to believe Jean was most capricious. So people hardly listen.

    Didn't you know Harry Cohn? He was the studio boss of Columbia Pictures. Great big Hollywood mogul. It seems he had chosen that job, because he was obsessed with beautiful girls. Idiot!