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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
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Did You Know?


Both of the picture's lead actors, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, were nominated for Best Actor at the BAFTAS, the Academy Awards, and the Golden Globes, with Courtenay tieing with Robert Duvall for Tender Mercies (1983) at the latter. 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 »


Norman: I had a friend...
Sir: Oh by Christ's sake! I'm sick of your friends. A motley crew they are: pathetic, lonely, despairing!
Norman: That's nice, isn't it?
Sir: I beg your pardon. Uncalled for! Count myself as your friend!
Norman: Never despairing!
Sir: I have apologized!
Norman: Never, NEVER despairing! Well perhaps, sometimes at night, or at Christmas, when you can't get a job in a pantomime! But not once inside the building! Never! Pathetic maybe, but not ungrateful. Too mindful of one's lot, as the saying goes. No duke is more ...
See more »


In the Hall of the Mountain King
Written by Edvard Grieg
Played by the theatre orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Finney masterpiece is a forgotten gem
4 July 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a movie that deserves another look--if you haven't seen it for a while, or a first look--if you were too young when it came out (1983). Based on a play by the same name, it is the story of an older actor who heads a touring Shakespearean repertory company in England during World War II. It deals with his stress of trying to perform a Shakespeare each night while facing problems such as bombed theaters and a company made up of older or physically handicapped actors--the young, able bodied ones being taken for military service. It also deals with his relationship with various members of his company, especially with his dresser. So far it all sounds rather dull but nothing could be further from the truth. While tragic overall, the story is told with a lot of humor and emotions run high throughout. The two male leads both received Oscar nominations for best actor and deservedly so. I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys human drama, theater--especially Shakespeare, or who has ever worked backstage in any capacity. The backstage goings-on make up another facet of the movie that will be fascinating to most viewers.

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