Portrait in Black

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Portrait in Black
Portrait in Black 1960.jpg
VHS cover
Directed by Michael Gordon
Produced by Ross Hunter
Screenplay by Ivan Goff
Ben Roberts
Based on the play Portrait in Black
by Ivan Goff
Ben Roberts
Starring Lana Turner
Anthony Quinn
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Milton Carruth
Ross Hunter Productions Inc.
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • June 23, 1960 (1960-06-23) (Chicago)
  • June 28, 1960 (1960-06-28) (Los Angeles)
  • July 27, 1960 (1960-07-27) (New York City)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.4 million[1]
Box office $9.2 million[1]

Portrait in Black is a 1960 American neo-noir thriller film directed by Michael Gordon, and starring Lana Turner and Anthony Quinn. Produced by Ross Hunter, the film was based on the play of the same by name by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts who also wrote the screenplay. The film was distributed by Universal-International. This was the final film appearance by veteran actress Anna May Wong.[2][3]


San Francisco socialite, Sheila Cabot (Lana Turner) becomes increasingly disturbed as she cares for her ailing, disagreeable husband (Lloyd Nolan). Along the way, she falls in love with Dr. David Rivera (Anthony Quinn), who is tending her husband. This leads to a series of unfortunate events, resulting in the death of the husband and an ensuing murder investigation which reveals a surprise culprit..


Production notes[edit]

Portrait in Black was filmed in and around San Francisco, including a sequence at Devil's Slide on the Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1).[4]

Home video release[edit]

Portrait in Black was released on DVD in Region 1 as a Lana Turner double feature with Madame X by Universal Studios Home Entertainment on February 5, 2008.

The play[edit]

The film was based on a play, which premiered in London at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1946, was at Penge Empire w/c 23 September 1946, and had a short run on Broadway the following year. The writers, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, had worked on it for 13 months.[5][6]

Film rights were sold almost immediately for a reported $100,000 against a sliding percentage of the gross to reach a maximum of 15% at $2.5 million.[7] A clause was added that if a film was not released by 30 June 1950, the rights would revert to the authors and they would keep the $100,000. Diana Wynyard appeared in the London production and her husband, Carol Reed was going to direct the film version. However, he disagreed with Universal about how best to adapt it. Another director, Michael Gordon, encountered similar difficulties. In 1948, Goff approached Universal to buy the project back – they said it would cost $316,00, which Goff said was too much. When the 30 June 1950 deadline passed, the project reverted to the authors. They tried to get the film financed with Michael Gordon and Joan Crawford.[8]


According to Variety, the film earned $3,600,000 in rentals in 1960.[9]

Radio adaptation[edit]

Portrait in Black was presented on Theatre Guild on the Air March 2, 1952. The one-hour adaptation starred Barbara Stanwyck and Richard Widmark.[10]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b LARRY GLENN (26 Jan 1964). "HOLLYWOOD 'RICH': Tested Blueprint Used For Romantic Comedy". New York Times. p. X13. 
  2. ^ Portrait In Black at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Anna May Wong on IMDb .
  4. ^ Portrait in Black at "San Francisco Movie Locations from Classic Films". Accessed: July 29, 2013.
  5. ^ The Independent. Obituary, Ivan Goff, September 28, 1999. Accessed: July 29, 2013.
  6. ^ Portrait In Black at the IBDb. Accessed: July 29, 2013.
  7. ^ "Big Royalties for Australian Playwright in USA". The Argus. Melbourne. 23 January 1947. p. 5. Retrieved July 29, 2013 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ THOMAS F BRADY (28 Jan 1951). "THEY'RE THE TOPS: Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman Winners In International Popularity Poll Scenarists' Demands Of Men and Religion Profitable Deal Arctic War". New York Times. p. X5. 
  9. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  10. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read


Schwartz, Ronald. Neo-Noir: The New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral, 2005 (Portrait In Black listed on p. 127). Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland. ISBN 9780810856769.

External links[edit]