The theater, the cinema and ourselves (1947)

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THE YOUNG WOMAN OF TO'DAY 17. WILDE HAD NOT RECKONED WITH ANGELA LANSBURY The picture of dorian gray is a half-way film. Hollywood had an eye on the future but it could not shake off altogether its crude traditions. The picture, itself, which after all gives the name to the story, was crude to the verge of absurdity and the girl's suicide and later the tragic ending was completely unreal, lost in a vain attempt at melodrama. Yet it was most interesting and in spite of all its faults very attractive. It was Angela Lansbury who took possession of the film, she was both the making and the marring of it. She gave most of it complete realism and yet showed up its absurdities. "Good-bye little yellow bird," was a song of genuine sentiment without a trace of bathos. Would that she had also been allowed, like Sibyl in the original, to play Juliet and Rosalind against the background of an East End tavern. It was impossible not to believe in her all the time she was there, it was only her suicide off that seemed completely unlikely. But what of Wilde? The plain fact is that he was completely left out of it. He might, if alive, have tried to put up a fight against Angela Lansbury's wholesome, fascinating sincerity, but he would probably have retreated, murmuring that he found her tedious. Gone was the tainted atmosphere of what was surely one of the most tainted stories. One felt that something was the cause of the trouble with the picture and of his desertion of Angela Lansbury, but it might have been anything, there was not even a sense of mystery about it. He might have fallen in love with a millionaire's daughter or been engrossed in gambling on the Stock Exchange, and if Angela Lansbury had been her true self, so delightfully shown us, she would have shed a few very large tears, said "Well, that's that", and gone back to singing "Good-bye little yellow bird" even more naturally than before. But suicide, no. She was not that kind of girl, she was far too wholesome, too sensible for that. Was this story, without Wilde, amusing or even ridiculous? Ridiculous, certainly not, Angela Lansbury's sincerity prevented that. Amusing, perhaps, to those who remembered or could realize the atmosphere in which Wilde wrote—the cultured perversion of his section of society. There was something fitting in Angela Lansbury passing on to her next film, the harvey girls, in which a group of very moral American young ladies dance and sing with very little on to a lot of degraded men in order to convert them from girls with even less clothes and considerably less morality. Even here there was a 40