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The Dresser [VHS] (1983)

Albert Finney , Tom Courtenay , Peter Yates  |  PG |  VHS Tape
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Edward Fox, Zena Walker, Eileen Atkins
  • Directors: Peter Yates
  • Writers: Ronald Harwood
  • Producers: Peter Yates, Nigel Wooll, Ronald Harwood
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • VHS Release Date: August 6, 1996
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6302795451
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,547 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

It's life in the Theater with a capital T in this film adaptation of the London and Broadway hit by Ronald Harwood. Though we see other people, the film is really a duet between Sir (Albert Finney), an aging actor-manager who runs his own theater company, and Norman (Tom Courtenay), his dresser, who gets him into costume and, ultimately, into shape to go onstage each night. Sir is on his last legs; Norman is alternately his cheerleader, his parent, and his whipping boy--whatever it takes to get Sir up to performance level each night. Finney perfectly captures the vainglorious insecurity of this aging ham, whose career has never quite matched his expectations but who has to convince himself each night (with Norman's help) that a performance in the provinces is as big a deal as treading the boards in the West End. The film lives and dies, however, with Courtenay's neatly nuanced performance as Norman. No man is a hero to his valet--but Courtenay finds the affection along with the disdain that are part of this character. A great backstage tale. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
England, 1940, during the blitz: all the young actors are in uniform, hospital, or dead. Albert Finney, playing an aging Shakespearean, carries on as best he can, leading his troupe of women, and men too old or damaged to fight. Actually, he doesn't lead, but rather is daily cajoled into carrying on by his dresser (played by Tom Courtenay). Courtenay is wonderful as the fussy, loyal, oh-so-English man behind the man, maintaining a desperate hold on his good humour even as his life is coming apart in shreds as Finney disintegrates.
It is easy to see that Finney was classically trained, and that his booming stage voice must have rung through many a theater. The snatches of Shakespeare that we do see are great fun, as is the byplay between the old man who can do them in his sleep and even the most humble members of the crew, who by now know all the cues. But mainly this is the story of two men, one an artist who is used to taking what he needs from those around him, and the other who gives his life over to that man, and to some idea of carrying on the great work. This is not a happy film, but it is a great one.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nominated then forgotten! January 24, 2006
Format:DVD
England--WWII-- Albert Finney is the aging star of a Shakespearean stage company, and Tom Courtney is his backstage "nancy-boy" dresser, who must somehow deal with the egomaniacal old ham in the early statges of senile dementia or Alzheimer's. The show must go on, despite bombing raids, Finney's collapse, and other difficulties--or must it?

The fop and the falling star share brilliantly-acted interactions that are alternately infuriating and touching. With well-timed direction, a great screenplay, and a sturdy plot, this film won 5 Oscar nominations but --amazingly-- no Oscars.

That doesn't mean this incipient classic should be overlooked. A fine addition to any DVD library, and one that may not "stay in print;" Order THE DRESSER now--you won't be disappointed!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent August 18, 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
An acting tour-de-force! Ok, sounds like an ad-blurb, but it's true. A beautifully scripted and acted film. Adapted from a stageplay,taking place mostly in a theatre, The Dresser somehow manages, at least to my mind, not to seem like a stageplay at all. This film should be compulsory viewing for any acting student. As far as the complaints that Finney chews the scenery a bit, ummmmm, how do I put this...he's playing an, aging, egotistical scene-chewing actor! That could be why. Yeeesh. Highly recommended to any fan of great acting. "I'd like a nice, cup of tea with my coffee...."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch This Film In Different Stages Of Your Life October 10, 2010
Format:DVD
When I watched this movie in theaters when it was initially released during 1983 I was just thirty years old. I just did not get it. Sure, I could appreciate the splendid acting and dialogue...but the range of human emotions was beyond my range. I had to mature. I had to become a caretaker for a loved one. I had to experience the death of my twin sister who chose to live a life in the theater. I had to become emotionally intimate with another. Then, and only then, did I get it. And WOW is this film powerful.

On one level, it is a film, possibly the best film about the meaning of theater. An aging and once great Shakespearean actor is reduced to playing second rate venues in the provinces when all the good actors are off to war against the Nazis. The year is 1940...the fate of the war is uncertain. Theaters and homes are being bombed. And yet, "Sir" the lead actor continues on playing the major roles of the Shakespeare plays...having never missed giving a performance.

He is now exhausted, physically and emotionally. He is seriously ill..near senilty. And yet - like the soldiers faced with another dreary, impossible day...he goes on. But it is all made possible now by his dresser, his confidante, his caretaker, his friend, and most importantly, his intimate.

And more than anything else, this is a film about intimacy. It is quite clear that Norman (brilliantly played by Tom Courtenay) has a homosexual crush on his 'Sir." But more than that, they really are a pair, feeding and working off each other...Sir is an outstanding actor because his dresser has the skill, reverance, and love to make it happen. In a sense they perform - together.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A love-song to Sir Donald Wolfit September 8, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There's a very peculiar review here by one Eric A. Daily, who thinks that the eponymous Dresser is played by John Hurt. Oh no he isn't. It's Tom Courtenay, in one of his most affecting performances. I saw Courtenay play this on the London Stage nearly 30 years ago; unforgettable. By the time I saw the play, Finney had left the cast and "Sir" was played superbly by Freddie Jones, a sometimes underrated, undervalued actor who still is working on UK TV, although now in his eighties; we should be so spry. But this film boasts Albert Finney, and in him and Tom Courtenay you have two of the British theatre's -indeed the World's- greatest living actors.

As the playwright Ronald Harwood has repeatedly said, the play (and film) are based on his own experiences dressing the great, legendary, barnstorming actor Donald Wolfit, who made relatively few film appearances but whose voice was powerful enough to rattle the front-of-house chandeliers. So this is a loving and poignant elegy to a particular era and a particular style of acting that both have passsed from view. This is neither good nor bad, it's just the way things are; cyclical and ever-renewing, because tastes change and interpretations of the classic texts shift from generation to generation. However... experience tells me that when some of today's British theatrical Knights are booming their way through Shakespeare and Chekhov, the backstage corridors at the National Theatre may yet echo with passions and tensions and the creak of over-stretched egos that would sound very familiar to Sir Donald Wolfit's still-growling spectre.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fine acting, really enjoyed this
Published 23 days ago by The Onedin Line Lady
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love theatre, if you've lived the life
This movie is about a traveling Shakespeare performing company in the forties in England with an elderly lead actor who has an assistant called a dresser. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Satisfied Sally
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime
The Dresser is basically a two-person piece equipped with a great script and brilliant actors. The two characters are, "Sir" an aging actor-manager who has spent his life... Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. L. Golden
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dream Team
Finney and Courtenay---who could ask for anything more? The stage play comes alive in this heartfelt, funny, and beautifully-acted tribute to "struggle and survival" in the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Anne A
4.0 out of 5 stars Super flick
If you want to see some excellent acting and an interesting voyage into the mind of the characters, this is the movie for you.
Published 7 months ago by Joan A. Damico
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Performances
This film has had a hard time finding an audience in the US, which is understandable, given that the setting is the smallish backstage world of the English provincial theatre. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Calicokid
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dresser
I first watched this movie on T M C and fell in love with it I was under the imoression that Sir Albert Finny was thr star, but not so , for the movie,s name was the dresser... Read more
Published 20 months ago by marenia mcbride
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunned
When I first viewed "The Dresser", I was stunned by the quality of the acting, the power and tension of the plot, and the seemingly inevitable pathos of the ending. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Arthur Fistori
5.0 out of 5 stars Must see classic
Do yourself a favor and rent or buy this film right away. Albert Finney is at his best with all all star British cast at the top of their game. Cannot recommend highly enough. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Fiona
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtenay and Finney from Amazon's surprising selection
With WW2 destroying venues and rearranging the English populace, an aging actor (Finney) struggles onward with his unacceptable troupe, leftovers and aged not yet claimed by German... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Kevin S Greenwood
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