Woman in a Dressing Gown

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Woman in a Dressing Gown
"Woman in a Dressing Gown2 (1957).jpg
Danish poster
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Ted Willis
Based onTV play by Willis
Produced by Frank Godwin
J. Lee Thompson
Starring Yvonne Mitchell
Anthony Quayle
Sylvia Syms
Carole Lesley
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Richard Best
Music by Louis Levy
Godwin-Willis Productions
Distributed by Associated British-Pathé
Release date
  • June 1957 (1957-06)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£450,000 (UK)
£1 million (total) [1]

Woman in a Dressing Gown is a 1957 British drama film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Yvonne Mitchell, Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Syms, and Carole Lesley. [2] The film won four awards at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival including the first ever FIPRESCI Prize and a special mention for "Best Foreign Film". [3] Mitchell won the Silver Bear for Best Actress. [4] The film also won the 1958 Golden Globe Award for Best English-Language Foreign Film. [5]


The screenplay was written by Ted Willis and the cinematographer was Gilbert Taylor. The producer was Frank Godwin. [6]

The film concerns a man who is having an extramarital affair and considers divorce, and his wife's reaction to the affair. Scenes compare and contrast the man's relationship with his wife versus his relationship with his lover. These are not only very different in content, but very different in film style, shots with his lover being in extreme close-up and/or unusually framed shots. Shots of the wife are mainly in wide angle, encompassing the chaotic mess of her house.

The film is considered an example of British social realism, and a prototypical version of Kitchen sink realism. Modern criticism has noted that it was more progressive in the field of gender politics than the British New Wave.


The Prestons are an apparently happy household made up of wife Amy (Yvonne Mitchell), husband Jim (Anthony Quayle) and teenage son Brian (Andrew Ray), living in a cramped flat on a London housing estate. On a Sunday morning she lovingly prepares his cooked breakfast but he announces he has to work.

However, tensions soon become clear. Though she has a breezy, loving character, Amy is a disorganised housewife. She finds it difficult to concentrate enough to tidy or cook properly. Jim is having an affair with a colleague, Georgie (Sylvia Syms), who threatens to break it off unless Jim divorces his wife and leaves his family. He promises that he will do so, and eventually demands a divorce. Amy is shocked and distraught, but vows to improve herself. She borrows ten shillings from her son (who is in his first job) and pawns her engagement ring for three pounds. She then gets her hair done and buys a half bottle of whisky for Jim. She has phoned Jim at work and told him to bring Georgie home. Her plan is foiled when heavy rain starts and ruins her new hair. She gets home looking worse than ever. She pulls her best dress out of storage but rips it putting it on. Her neighbour arrives and they start drinking the whisky. Amy gets drunk and ruins the table.

Brian finds her drunk and becomes angry with his father when he brings Georgie to the house. Jim slaps Brian, who leaves.

After a confrontation Amy orders Jim and Georgie out of the flat. Jim leaves, but has second thoughts, he tells Georgie it won't work and returns to his wife who is lovingly packing his case. She vows to get rid of her dressing gown. [7]



The film was based on a 1956 ITV Television Playhouse play written by Ted Willis. [8] It was the first of three films Sylvia Syms made with Thompson. [9]


Box Office

The film was one of the most popular at the British box office in 1957. [10] According to Kinematograph Weekly the film was "in the money" at the British box office in 1957. [11]

J. Lee Thompson later said the film lost money but was well received by critics. [12]


Variety said it "had good b.o. possibilities." [13]

The New York Times said "Paddy Chayefsky would love it." [14]

Jean-Luc Godard wrote "One really has to rack one’s brains to find anything to say about a British film. One wonders why. But that’s the way it is. And there isn’t even an exception to prove the rule. Especially not Woman in a Dressing-gown anyhow, in spite of its acting prize? at the recent Berlin Festival. That just goes to show that the Germans have no idea either.... From beginning to end the film is an incredible debauch of camera movements as complex as they are silly and meaningless." [15]

On the film's rerelease on in 2012, Peter Bradshaw, in a five star review for The Guardian wrote that the film's "proto-kitchen-sink drama goes all the way where Brief Encounter loitered hesitantly....and unlike David Lean's film, this one shows people saying the relevant things out loud. An unmissable rerelease." [16] While Melanie Williams for the BFI Screenonline noted "an important reminder that postwar British realism did not begin with the New Wave, and that the 1950s were not devoid of socially engaged cinema, as is sometimes suggested. Indeed, in the field of gender politics, one could argue that this film is considerably more progressive than the New Wave that superseded it, in its focus on the travails of a middle-aged housewife rather than those of a virile young man." [17]


Willis later adapted the script into a stage play that was very successful. [18]

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  1. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (29 July 2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780198159346 via Google Books.
  2. "Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) - J. Lee Thompson | Cast and Crew | AllMovie" via www.allmovie.com.
  3. Higson, Andrew (ed.); Ashby, Justine (ed.); Porter, Vincent (2000). British Cinema: Past and Present: "Outsiders in England: the films of the Associated British Picture Corporation, 1949-1958". Routledge. p. 162. ISBN   9780415220620.{{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  4. "Berlinale 1957: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  5. "Woman In A Dressing Gown". www.goldenglobes.com.
  6. "Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)". BFI.
  7. "Woman in a Dressing Gown". The Australian Women's Weekly . Vol. 25, no. [?]. Australia. 23 April 1958. p. 68. Retrieved 20 July 2020 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "Woman in a Dressing Gown (1956)". BFI.
  9. Vagg, Stephen (22 February 2023). "The Surprisingly Saucy Cinema of Sylvia Syms". Filmink. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  10. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 259.
  11. Billings, Josh (12 December 1957). "Others in the money". Kinematograph Weekly. p. 7.
  13. Review of film at Variety
  14. Screen: British Import: 'Woman in a Dressing Gown' at Victoria By BOSLEY GROWTHER. New York Times 13 Sep 1957: 15.
  15. Godard, Jean-Luc. Godard on Godard. pp. 85–86.
  16. "Woman in a Dressing Gown – review". the Guardian. 26 July 2012.
  17. "BFI Screenonline: Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  18. "Production of Woman in a Dressing Gown | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com.

Further reading