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.
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.
Laird Cregar, who had come to notice in Hollywood by playing Oscar Wilde on stage, was considered for the role of Lord Henry.
Donna Reed didn't enjoy making this movie because she was promised the role played by Angela Lansbury.
Angela Lansbury lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to Anne Revere, who played her stalwart mother in the cherished family adventure, National Velvet, a film in which Lansbury was assigned what she long considered a secondary role.
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. Albright's twin brother Malvin Albright, better known as a sculptor, was also commissioned to create paintings for the film, although his work went unused.
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. She saw both Cukor and Albert Lewin the same day and was cast for her first two films.
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 Reese' in The Harvey Girls, a full-throttle Technicolor musical; and Doreen Tryden in The Hoodlum Saint, a moody drama containing a couple of standards. In this film, Doreen Tryden, ironically, supplied the off-screen voice for Donna Reed's reprise of "Good-bye, Little Yellow Bird."
Final film of Charles K. French.
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.
The blocks under the table in Dorian's school room have the initials of the people who die.
The movie is black and white except for four times when Dorian Gray's picture is shown in color.
Years later, a friend of Hurd Hatfield's bought the painting of young Dorian Gray that was used in the movie at an auction, and gave it to Hatfield.