Shades Of Dorian Gray: New Art Exhibit Sheds Light On Actor Hurd Hatfield's Time In Sag Harbor | By Annette Hinkle
In October 1961, the film “King of Kings” was screened at the Sag Harbor Cinema. The film was a bio-pic about the life and death of Jesus Christ and among its stars was Hurd Hatfield who played Pontius Pilate. After the screening, locals who were there recall that Hatfield, dressed in a red blazer, spoke in person, sharing stories about the filmmaking experience with the audience.
While it may seem odd that a Hollywood star of Hatfield’s caliber would show up at an off-season film screening in tiny Sag Harbor, the fact is, in the early 1960s, Hurd Hatfield wasn’t just any celebrity—he was also a village resident.
As an actor, Hatfield’s most famous film role came in 1945 when he portrayed the title character in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Based on the book by Oscar Wilde, the film told the story of a corrupt young man who retains his youthful looks while his hidden portrait grows ever more hideous in a reflection of his soul.
Though the film made him a star, Hatfield frequently lamented that he was forever after typecast as a cold, calculating villain. He was once quoted as saying, “You know, I was never a great beauty in Gray and I never understood why I got the part, and have spent my career regretting it.”
One thing Hatfield didn’t regret was collecting antiques and restoring old houses. During the years he lived in Sag Harbor the actor owned and renovated several historic homes, including the Sleight House on Division Street, another on Garden Street, and a third at the corner of Madison and Sage streets. That last home belonged to the late jazz musician Hal McKusick and was recently purchased by artists April Gornik and Eric Fischl for their new artist-in-residence venture.
By the early 1970s, Hatfield had left Sag Harbor for Cork, Ireland, where he spent the rest of his life restoring historic Ballinterry House (now a luxury guest house), did some acting, and made lots of close friends before he died in 1998 at the age of 81.
One of those friends was curator and artist Peter Murray, and on Saturday, May 4, Hurd Hatfield returns to Sag Harbor as the subject of an art exhibition featuring Mr. Murray’s work. The show will be at the historic Vail House on Madison Street which, coincidentally, is right next door to Hatfield’s former home.
Mr. Murray, the former director of the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork, will display drawings and watercolors that depict Hatfield as he appeared in “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” as well as his co-star in the film, Angela Lansbury. In real life, he notes, Hatfield and Ms. Lansbury were great friends and it was she who introduced him to Cork. In connection with the exhibition, on Sunday, May 5, Mr. Murray will be at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum to present a lecture on “Hurd Hatfield and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’”