Updated: Mar 2
(If you have not yet taken “For Art’s Sake: Portraits in Classic Film,” click here to go straight to the quiz.)
Question #1: Who is seen in the painting?
Answer: Scarlett O’Hara, in 1939’s Gone With the Wind. Seen in Rhett’s bedroom, the life-size painting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett was created by artist Helen Carlton and currently resides in the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia.
Question #2: For a costume party, Joan Fontaine’s character copies the look seen in this portrait, with disastrous results, in this 1940 Hitchcock film:
Answer: Rebecca. Fontaine’s naive Mrs. de Winter takes the wrong advice from Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers, who points out that a portrait of Lady Caroline de Winter would make a fine inspiration for a costume to wear at an upcoming party: "I've heard Mr. de Winter say this is his favorite of all the paintings.” Little does Fontaine’s character realize that Danvers suggestion is more hateful calculation than kindness: The first Mrs. de Winter, the titular Rebecca, wore the same costume at a previous party; Fontaine’s blunder brings up bad memories for Laurence Olivier’s Maxim de Winter and compels him to angrily berate his new wife just as guests are beginning to arrive.
Question #3: Thinking she’s dead, Dana Andrews falls in love with the woman in the painting — what’s her name?
Answer: Laura. The painting at the centerpiece of the 1944 Otto Preminger film starring Gene Tierney was actually the second one created for the film. The first portrait, painted by artist Azadia Newman, wife of Rouben Mamoulian, originally assigned to direct Laura. Darryl F. Zanuck wasn’t pleased with early rushes of Laura, however; he fired Mamoulian and replaced him with Preminger, who was producing Laura but all along had wanted to direct the film. Preminger scrapped everything, including the costumes, sets and that portrait, and sent Tierney to studio photographer Frank Polony — Preminger selected the most alluring of Polony’s images and had it embellished with brushstrokes of varnish to look like a painting.
The “painting” of Laura today remains in a private collection, but eagle-eyed fans can spot it in two subsequent films: in 1951’s On the Riviera, starring Danny Kaye, and in 1954’s A Woman’s World, where it resides over the fireplace of the character played by Clifton Webb, who of course also stars in Laura.
Question #4: Bette Davis’s character marries the man who secretly arranged for her portrait to be painted — what’s the name of this film?
Answer: Mr. Skeffington. Legendary makeup artist Perc Westmore, who oversaw Davis’s look in the 1944 Warner Bros. film, managed to keep the painting once production wrapped and prominently displayed it in his living room. Though Davis tried over the years to acquire the painting for herself, it stayed in Westmore's family following his death in 1970, and in 2018 was sold at auction for just $13,750 — the oil-on-canvas painting had been significantly trimmed down from its original size, however, which could account for its low selling price.
Question #5: Joseph Cotten plays a painter who falls in love with a mysterious girl played by Jennifer Jones — name this film:
Answer: Portrait of Jennie. Celebrated portrait artist Robert Brackman was personally chosen by producer David O. Selznick (at the time the husband of Portrait of Jennie star Jennifer Jones) to paint the image of the enigmatic title character. Fifteen sittings were required in Brackman’s Connecticut studio; a pastel chalk drawing also was created and is seen earlier in the film. Today the painting reportedly resides in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena — a renowned art collector, Simon was the third husband of Jennifer Jones, who remained on the board of the museum following Simon’s death in 1993.
Question #6: Irene Dunne misses her meeting with Charles Boyer in this 1939 romance, but he understands why when he sees this painting — name the film:
Answer: Love Affair. Boyer takes on the role of French playboy Michel Marnay in this film, and his love for Irene Dunne’s Terry McKay causes him to take his talent for painting seriously. That’s his painting seen in Terry’s apartment at the end of the film, when Michel realizes that Terry is paralyzed, due to an accident that kept her from meeting him at the top of the Empire State Building (his agent had told him that a woman in a wheelchair wanted to buy the painting). The painting, unfortunately, is not nearly as memorable as the film, which was remade twice: as An Affair to Remember in 1957 and as Love Affair, this time starring Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, in 1994.
Question #7: That film was remade in 1957, with Charles Boyer’s role taken over by Cary Grant, who discovers the painting in Deborah Kerr’s bedroom:
Answer: An Affair to Remember. Arguably the best known of the three versions, An Affair to Remember was directed by Leo McCarey, also the director on Love Affair. Grant’s character is renamed Nickie Ferrante, while Kerr retains the name of Terry McKay.
Question #8: Cary Grant talks to a painting of Joan Fontaine’s stern father in this 1941 Hitchcock film:
Answer: Suspicion. Sixteen years prior to An Affair to Remember, Grant took on the role of another playboy, Johnnie Aysgarth, who thinks life might be both fun and comfortable if he marries Fontaine’s Lina, the only child of wealthy parents. Johnnie does seem to genuinely Lina, an idea he expresses when talking to her father’s portrait in the library. But Lina's father, General McLaidlaw, played by Cedric Hardwicke, doesn’t care for either Johnnie’s devil-may-care approach to life or that he eloped with his only daughter, however; the depth of his disapproval is realized after his death, when his will reveals that he’s left Lina just one thing: his portrait.
Question #9: In this Hitchcock film, Kim Novak’s character is mesmerized by a painting, while Jimmy Stewart is mesmerized by her:
Answer: Vertigo. Artist John Ferren painted the Portrait of Carlotta that draws Novak’s intense interest in 1958’s Vertigo. Born in Oregon and educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, Ferren was selected by Hitchcock to both paint the portrait that plays such an integral role in the plot and design the look of the nightmare experienced by Stewart. Today the portrait is believed to be owned by one of the restorers of the acclaimed 70MM Vertigo print released in 1996.
Question #10: Barbara Stanwyck falls for a painter played by Humphrey Bogart, but learns she’s in danger when he paints her as the “Angel of Death” in this film:
Answer: The Two Mrs. Carrolls. Artist and set designer John Decker painted the two portraits at the heart of this 1947 Warner Bros. film: the painting of the unseen first Mrs. Carroll and the painting of Stanwyck, who marries Bogart’s painter after his first wife’s death. Both paintings depict his wives as the “Angel of Death,” a sign that all may not right both with his character’s mind and the life of the current wife once the painting is completed. The two paintings would Decker's his final work; he died the same year The Two Mrs. Carrolls was released, at the age of 51.
Question #11: Edward G. Robinson becomes enchanted by a portrait of Joan Bennett in this 1944 film noir:
Answer: The Woman in the Window. First spied by Robinson in a gallery window, the portrait of Bennett that kicks off the plot of the 1944 Fritz Lang film was painted by Los Angeles-based artist Paul Clemens, whose work featured many portraits of Hollywood stars, including Katharine Hepburn and Jane Wyman — the sense of romanticism in his work earned him the nickname “the American Renoir.” His second wife was actress Eleanor Parker.
Question #12: One of cinema’s most famous portraits is seen in a 1945 film based on an Oscar Wilde novel.
Answer: The Picture of Dorian Gray. Directed by Albert Lewin, this version of Wilde’s 1890 story stars Hurd Hatfield as Dorian, Donna Reed as his true love Gladys, Angela Lansbury (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane, the dance-hall girl seduced and ruined by Dorian), and George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton, the film’s de facto narrator. Portuguese artist Henrique Medina painted the “pretty” version of Dorian’s portrait; that painting — featuring both Medina’s signature and the fictional signature (placed alongside the “G” signed by the child actor who plays Gladys as a young girl) — was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2015 for $149,000.
Lewin selected American artist Ivan Albright, meanwhile, to paint the grotesque version of Dorian’s portrait, which reveals his life of hate and debauchery, even as his physical appearance never changes. Albright’s portrait famously resides in the Art Institute of Chicago, where it’s a popular attraction among visitors.