This article needs additional citations for verification . (July 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Directed by||Peter Yates|
|Produced by||Peter Yates|
|Written by||Ronald Harwood|
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Ray Lovejoy|
|Distributed by||Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors|
The Dresser is a 1983 British drama film directed by Peter Yates and adapted by Ronald Harwood from his 1980 play The Dresser . It tells the story of an aging actor's personal assistant struggling to keep his employer's life together. The film stars Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Zena Walker, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gough, and Edward Fox.
Finney and Courtenay were both nominated for Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globe Awards for their performances, with Courtenay winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama in a tie with Robert Duvall for Tender Mercies.
The plot is based on Harwood's experiences as dresser to English Shakespearean actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit, who is the model for the character "Sir".
The film opens with a performance of Othello at a regional theatre in Britain during World War II. In the title role is an aging, once-famous Shakespearean actor identified to us only as "Sir" (Albert Finney). He is of the old, bombastic school of British acting, full of grand gestures and fine oratory. As the curtain comes down on the last act, and as the actors line up for their curtain call, Sir lectures them on the mistakes they've made during the performance, showing us that he is the leader of this travelling band of actors bringing Shakespeare to the provinces during wartime.
Waiting backstage is Norman (Tom Courtenay), who has been Sir's dresser for decades. Norman is an efficient, somewhat effeminate man who knows Sir's every whim and fancy, is used to his tirades and temperamental rants and is, for all intents and purposes, Sir's servant. As Norman waits for Sir to come offstage after a typically florid closing address to the audience, we see one way he copes with his job as he takes a nip from a little bottle of brandy always in his back pocket.
The company is hurrying to its next venue, the industrial city of Bradford, where Sir is to give his renowned portrayal of the title character in King Lear . The train nearly leaves without them, as Sir makes his stately progress through York railway station to the platform, Norman scurrying ahead to plead with the train guard to hold the train for Sir's arrival. But the train begins to pull out of the station, until Sir delivers a loud, commanding "STOP....THAT....TRAIN!" from the platform steps. The guard is taken aback, the train halts, and Sir placidly leads his company aboard.
Arriving in Bradford, however, another source of Norman's anxiety soon becomes clear, for it becomes obvious that Sir's mental capacities are rapidly fading. Norman rescues him from a confused, almost violent rant in Halifax town square near Piece Hall that lands Sir in hospital. As the company tries to decide what to do, Sir unexpectedly arrives at the theatre, disoriented and exhausted, saying he has discharged himself from hospital. Norman ushers Sir to the dressing room, fiercely resisting the stage manager's insistence that the show be cancelled, and insisting Sir will be ready to go on.
The middle section of the film takes place nearly entirely in the dressing room, as Norman struggles to prepare Sir for the curtain. Sir's wandering mind and nearly incoherent ramblings gradually become more focused as Norman gets him to concentrate on applying his makeup, remembering his lines; and we see how dependent the two men are on each other. Sir would have no career left without Norman; Norman, even worse, would have no life without Sir, to whom he has so long dedicated all his time and energy. By the time Sir's wife, referred to only as "Her Ladyship", who is playing Cordelia to her husband's Lear, arrives in the dressing room for the five-minute call, Sir is ready for the role he has performed 227 times.
The curtain rises for the opening dialogue among Lear's courtiers, but Sir seems to mentally drift away while waiting for his cue, much to Norman's distress, forcing the hapless actors on stage to improvise speeches while Norman struggles to convince Sir of his entrance. Air raid sirens sound, signalling the onset of an air raid; and, indeed, distant bombs that can be heard falling seem to rouse Sir and he strides on stage to deliver what all agree is his finest portrayal of Lear in his long career.
After the triumphant performance, however, Sir collapses from exhaustion and Norman helps him to his dressing room to lie down. Sir requests that Norman read from an autobiography he claims to have been writing. Although all Sir has written is the opening dedication, Norman reads aloud Sir's gracious "thank you"s to his audiences, his fellow actors, to Shakespeare, to stage technicians...but not a word about his dresser who has served him so long and loyally. About to protest, Norman discovers that Sir has died while he's been reading. Norman, by now slightly drunk from the evening's brandy nips, flies into a rage, accusing Sir of being a thankless old sod, and in his anger even madly scribbles an addition to Sir's writing thanking himself. But Norman's anger only temporarily covers his disorientation at losing the only life he has known for so many years and, as Norman tearfully admits, the only man he has ever loved. The film closes with Norman sprawled across Sir's body, unwilling to let go of his life and his love.
Goldcrest Films gave Ronald Harwood $60,000 to write the screenplay. They invested £1.5 million in the film and made a profit of nearly £300,000. In 1990 Jake Eberts of Goldcrest called it "the most pleasant production with which I have ever been associated."
The Dresser received good reviews upon its release. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times , in awarding the film four out of four stars, described the film as "a wonderful collection of theatrical lore, detail, and superstition....the best sort of drama, fascinating us on the surface with color and humor and esoteric detail, and then revealing the truth underneath."Joachim Boaz of Film Ruminations gave it 7 out 10 in 2010 and noted the film was "solid, well-acted, if somewhat forgettable drama". John Simon of the National Review said The Dresser is one of those rare cases where the film version was better than the stage original.
Goldcrest Films invested £1,456,000 in the film and received £1,744,000 in return making a profit of £288,000.
|Academy Awards||Best Picture||Peter Yates||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Tom Courtenay||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Ronald Harwood||Nominated|
|Berlin International Film Festival||Golden Bear||Peter Yates||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Albert Finney||Won|
|C.I.D.A.L.C. Award||Peter Yates||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Leading Role||Tom Courtenay||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Eileen Atkins||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Ronald Harwood||Nominated|
|Best Makeup Artist||Alan Boyle||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Foreign Film||The Dresser||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama||Tom Courtenay||Won|
|Best Director – Motion Picture||Peter Yates||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay – Motion Picture||Ronald Harwood||Nominated|
|Mainichi Film Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||Peter Yates||Won|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||The Dresser||4th Place|
In 2015, the BBC produced a variant TV adaptation of the play, starring Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen and Emily Watson. It was reviewed generally as "a triumph".
Sir Thomas Daniel Courtenay is an English actor of stage and screen. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Courtenay achieved prominence in the 1960s with a series of acclaimed film roles, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), for which he received the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, and Doctor Zhivago (1965), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other notable film roles during this period include Billy Liar (1963), King and Country (1964), for which he was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, King Rat (1965), and The Night of the Generals. More recently, he received critical acclaim for his performance in Andrew Haigh's film 45 Years (2015).
Sir Donald Wolfit, CBE was an English actor-manager, known for his touring wartime productions of Shakespeare. He was especially renowned for his portrayal of King Lear.
Local Hero is a 1983 Scottish comedy-drama film written and directed by Bill Forsyth and starring Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Fulton Mackay and Burt Lancaster. Produced by David Puttnam, the film is about an American oil company representative who is sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and surrounding property for his company. For his work on the film, Forsyth won the 1984 BAFTA Award for Best Direction.
Dance with a Stranger is a 1985 British tragedy film directed by Mike Newell. Telling the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain (1955), the film won critical acclaim, and aided the careers of two of its leading actors, Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett. The screenplay was by Shelagh Delaney, author of A Taste of Honey, and was her third major screenplay. The story of Ellis, which this film dramatises, has resonance in Britain since it provided part of the background to the extended national debates which led to the progressive abolition of capital punishment from 1965 on.
Enigma is a 1982 Anglo-American thriller film directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starring Martin Sheen, Sam Neill, Brigitte Fossey, and Kevin McNally. Based on Michael Barak's novel Enigma Sacrifice, the film centers on a CIA agent who tries to infiltrate Soviet intelligence in order to stop a murderous plot.
Sir Ronald Harwood was a South African-born British author, playwright, and screenwriter, best known for his plays for the British stage as well as the screenplays for The Dresser and The Pianist, for which he won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).
Revolution is a 1985 British historical drama film directed by Hugh Hudson, written by Robert Dillon, and starring Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, and Nastassja Kinski. The film stars Pacino as a New York fur trapper who involuntarily gets enrolled in the Revolutionary forces during the American Revolutionary War.
The Plague Dogs is a 1982 British-American animated adventure drama film, based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Richard Adams. It was written, directed and produced by Martin Rosen, who also directed Watership Down, the film adaptation of another novel by Adams. The Plague Dogs was produced by Nepenthe Productions; it was released by Embassy Pictures in the United States and by United Artists in the United Kingdom. The film was rated PG-13 by the MPAA for heavy animal cruelty themes, violent imagery, and emotionally distressing scenes. The Plague Dogs is the first non-family-oriented MGM animated film.
Concealed Enemies is a 1984 American PBS docudrama, produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, about the events leading to the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss. Directed by Jeff Bleckner, written by Hugh Whitemore and starring Edward Herrmann as Hiss, John Harkins as Whittaker Chambers and Peter Riegert as Richard Nixon, the two-part miniseries won the 1984 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.
Another Country is a 1984 British romantic historical drama written by Julian Mitchell, adapted from his play of the same name. Directed by Marek Kanievska, the film stars Rupert Everett and Colin Firth in his feature film debut.
Red Monarch is a 1983 British television film starring Colin Blakely as Joseph Stalin. It is directed by Jack Gold and features David Suchet as Lavrentiy Beria and David Threlfall as Stalin's son Vasily.
Runners is a 1983 film written by Stephen Poliakoff, and directed by Charles Sturridge. It stars Kate Hardie and James Fox.
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a 1982 British crime film directed by Chris Petit and starring Billie Whitelaw and Pippa Guard. It was entered into the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival. It is based on the 1972 novel of the same name by P. D. James.
Mr. Love is a 1985 British comedy film directed by Roy Battersby and starring Barry Jackson, Maurice Denham and Margaret Tyzack. It was made by Goldcrest Films.
Black Jack is a 1979 period children’s adventure film, directed by Ken Loach and based on the Leon Garfield novel. It is set in Yorkshire in 1750 and follows a young boy, Tolly and his adventures with a large French man, the Black Jack of the title, and Belle a young English girl. It was awarded the Critics’ Award at the Cannes Film Festival (1979).
The Dresser is a 2015 British television drama film directed by Richard Eyre and based on the 1980 play by Ronald Harwood. It stars Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Watson, Vanessa Kirby, Sarah Lancashire, and Edward Fox. The story examines the relationship between an aging Shakespearean actor and his theatrical dresser, as well as the other members of his theatrical company, as he grapples with the approach of senility and irrelevance. Like the play which serves as its basis, the film's central relationship draws inspiration from Shakespeare's King Lear. The film premiered on BBC Two on 31 October 2015.
The Dresser is a 1980 West End and Broadway play by Ronald Harwood, which tells the story of an aging actor's personal assistant, who struggles to keep his charge's life together.
Arthur's Hallowed Ground is a 1983 British TV film directed by Freddie Young.
Experience Preferred.... But Not Essential is a 1982 British TV film directed by Peter Duffell.
Winter Flight is a 1984 British TV movie directed by Roy Battersby, and starring Reece Dinsdale, Nicola Cowper and Sean Bean.