Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Richard Oswald | Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray) [lost film]

the sympathetic decadent

by Douglas Messerli

Richard Oswald (screenwriter, based on the fiction by Oscar Wilde, and director) Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray) / 1917 || lost film

Although it still appears on some lists of productions as an extant film, the German cinematic version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, directed by Richard Oswald and released in July 1917 has for long been considered a lost film.

       This version, unlike most of the previous adaptions, was a full five-act, 80 minute feature starring the German matinee idol, Bernd Aldor, this the first of some 20 film roles in which he starred between 1917-1931.

       He often portrayed a detective, but also worked regularly with Oswald acting roles of other kinds of characters in a 1917 film about venereal disease Es Werde Licht!, Des goldes Fluch (God’s Curse, 1917), Der lbebende Leichnam (The Living Corpse, 1918), and Die seltsame Geschichte des Bron Torelli (The Strange Tale of Baron Torelli, 1918).

      From the pictures we have of this production, Aldor evidently played Dorian Gray as a sailor, although another shot of him before the portrait represents him as wearing a Japanese-like robe. Ernst Pittschau appeared as Sir Henry Wotton, Ernst Ludwig as Basil Hallward, Lea Lara as Sibyl Vane, and Andreas Van Horn as Dorian’s ex-college chum Alan Campbell.

     The cinematographer was Max Fassbender and the sets were designed by Manfred Noa.

   Reviewers of the day praised its relative faithfulness to the original text, and for the empathy the director created for the lead figure Aldor.

        The poster for the film quite nicely catches the fin de siècle spirit of the original.

Los Angeles, June 8, 2021

Reprinted in My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (June 2021).


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