The Dresser

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The Dresser
The Dresser (movie poster).jpg
Directed by Peter Yates
Produced by Peter Yates
Written by Ronald Harwood
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Kelvin Pike
Edited by Ray Lovejoy
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 9 December 1983 (1983-12-09)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $5,310,748

The Dresser is a successful 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.

It was adapted as a 1983 film, based on a screenplay by Harwood. The film was directed by Peter Yates and produced by Yates with Ronald Harwood. The cinematography was by Kelvin Pike. The film version of The Dresser 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 in Tender Mercies.


During World War II the ageing and tyrannical actor-manager of a touring theatre company is attended by his devoted personal dresser, as the company travels northern England during The Blitz. As the backstage situation reaches a crisis, it parallels the on stage struggle of King Lear and his Fool.

Background and production[edit]


Ronald Harwood based the play on his experiences as dresser to distinguished English Shakespearean actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit, who is the model for the character "Sir" in the play. The play was first presented on 6 March 1980 at The Royal Exchange Theatre and then opened at the Queen's Theatre in London on 30 April 1980, with Freddie Jones as "Sir" and Tom Courtenay as Norman. The play was nominated for Best Play at the Laurence Olivier Awards for 1980.


The play opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 9 November 1981 and ran for 200 performances, with Tom Courtenay repeating his performance as Norman and Paul Rogers as "Sir". The play was nominated for the 1982 Tony Award for Best Play, Best Actor in a Play (Tom Courtenay) and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play (Paul Rogers).

Film cast[edit]

Harwood wrote the screenplay to adapt his work as a film.


Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards: two Best Actor in a Leading Role nominations (Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney), Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.[1] Albert Finney won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.[2]

Television version[edit]

The Dresser will be made into a television film, to be shown on BBC Two in late 2015. Richard Eyre directs Anthony Hopkins as Sir and Ian McKellen as Norman, with Emily Watson as Her Ladyship, Sarah Lancashire as Madge and Edward Fox as Thornton. Filming began in London in March 2015.[3]


  1. ^ "Many Oscar nominees unfamiliar". The Milwaukee Journal. 17 February 1984. p. 4, Accent on the Weekend. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Berlinale: 1984 Prize Winners". Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "Production commences on The Dresser starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen". BBC. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 

External links[edit]