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The Dresser (1983)

PG | | Drama | 6 December 1983 (USA)
2:42 | Trailer

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An effeminate personal assistant of a deteriorating veteran actor struggles to get him through a difficult performance of King Lear.



Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Zena Walker ...
Cathryn Harrison ...
Betty Marsden ...
Violet Manning
Sheila Reid ...
Lydia Gibson
Lockwood West ...
Donald Eccles ...
Mr. Godstone
Llewellyn Rees ...
Horace Brown
Guy Manning ...
Anne Blackman ...
Beryl (as Anne Mannion)
Kevin Stoney ...
C. Rivers Lane


In a touring Shakespearean theater group, a backstage hand - the dresser, is devoted to the brilliant but tyrannical head of the company. He struggles to support the deteriorating star as the company struggles to carry on during the London blitz. The pathos of his backstage efforts rival the pathos in the story of Lear and the Fool that is being presented on-stage, as the situation comes to a crisis. Written by xenophil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What happens backstage is always true drama. And often pure comedy.




PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

6 December 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El vestidor  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Actor Tom Courtenay played the dresser Norman on both the West End London stage and New York Broadway theatrical seasons and then reprized the role in this film version. Courtenay was nominated for the 1982 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Drama. See more »


After Sir and Norman leave the marketplace, they're passed by a Routemaster bus. These buses were first used in London in 1954, and weren't used outside London until the 1970's. See more »


Sir: 227 Lears... 227 performances of King Lear and I can't remember the first line.
See more »


Referenced in A Rather English Marriage (1998) See more »


God Save the King
Music attributed to Henry Carey
Played by the theatre orchestra and sung by the theatre audience
See more »

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User Reviews

Finney and Courtenay Work Wonders Together
8 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Dresser" is a small but absolutely wonderful film, brilliantly acted by Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. How in the world this tiny film attracted enough attention to garner five major Academy Award nominations back in 1983 is a mystery to me, but it's nice to know the Academy can be guilty of a display of good taste every once in a while (of course, they gave the award that year to "Terms of Endearment"-- after all, they don't want to be accused of showing TOO much taste).

Albert Finney is a drunken Shakespearean actor in a production of "King Lear"; Tom Courtenay is the man who works double time behind the scenes to keep this actor in front of the footlights. It's both hilarious and piteous to see Courtenay's character showering Finney's with attention and affection, only to see his efforts utterly unappreciated and dismissed, even up to the very bitter end. Finney and Courtenay work wonders together, and though Finney gets the showiest moments (he does get to recite Shakespeare after all), Courtenay is the heart and soul of the film.

Grade: A

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