British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Dresser, The

Synopsis
A film adaptation by Ronald Harwood of his own play, based on the touring career of Donald Wolfit, for whom Harwood was the dresser. The story relates the complex relationship between Sir, an ageing Shakespearean actor-manager on a provincial tour of England during World War II, and Norman, his gay dresser. Their difficult but mutually dependent (if unacknowledged) relationship resembles that of Lear and the Fool. The film focuses strongly on ‘Sir’s’ performance of King Lear where he comes to see the resemblance between himself and the tragic role he plays. There are also quotations from several other plays and a brief performance of ‘Sir’ as Othello (the death scene) at the beginning of the film.
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Film; Video
Technical information
Colour / Sound
Year of release
1983
Duration
118 mins; 10,657 feet

Credits

Director
Peter Yates
Producer
Peter Yates
Cinematographer
Kelvin Pike
Screenplay
Ronald Harwood
Music
James Horner
Production Design
Stephen B. Grimes
Art Direction
Colin Grimes
Cast
Albert Finney`Sir’ (Lear)
Edward FoxOxenby
Eileen AtkinsMadge
Tom CourtenayNorman
Zena Walker`Her Ladyship’

Additional Details

Theatre
Alhambra, Bradford
Production type
Fiction Films
Plays
King Lear; Othello
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Wolfit, Donald; Touring productions

Notes

General
The theatre scenes were filmed at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford.
History
The stage play opened at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester on 6 March 1980 and later played in London and on Broadway,
Awards
The film received 5 Academy Award nominations and 7 nominations for BAFTA Film Awards but did not win any. Tom Courtenay won a Golden Globe for his role as Norman.
Reviews
Lanier, Douglas, ‘Shakespeare Spin-Offs and Citations’ in Burt, Richard (ed). Shakespeares After Shakespeares: an Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture. (entry 801, p191-2). Lanier notes that the film is ‘also a portrait of the ambivalent cultural legacy of Shakespearean theatre at a definitive moment of its decline’.

Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times (1st January 1983).

Monthly Film Bulletin v.51, n603 (1 April 1984) p10-12

Production Company

Name

Goldcrest Distributors

Name

World Film Services

Distributor (Hire)

Name

Filmbank Distributors Ltd

Email
info@filmbank.co.uk
Web
http://www.filmbank.co.uk External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7984 5950
Fax
020 7984 5951
Address
Warner House
98 Theobalds Road
London
WC1X 8WB
Notes
The main source in the UK for hire of feature films for non-theatrical presentations. The extensive catalogue includes vintage classics, independent films and big blockbusters. Available on 16mm as well as VHS and DVD. Also provides advice on contractual matters.

Distributor (Sale)

Name

Retail outlets

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