Monday, 8 April 2013

Woman in a Dressing Gown.

The dressing gown in question belongs to Amy Preston (Yvonne Mitchell), a woman who seems to spend every waking hour in her dressing gown. Amy is overbearingly loud, terribly disorganised but tries desperately to be a good wife to her husband Jim (Anthony Quayle) and good mother to their son Brian (Andrew Ray). But without success, her domestic skills are sadly lacking and she can’t seem to function without the wireless blearing out load music. All of which sends Jim scurrying into the arms of Georgie (Sylvia Syms), a young and attractive secretary at the timber yard where he works. Escaping from the drudgery of his home life by telling his wife he has to work overtime. But the time has come for Jim to make up his mind between the two women.
Amy's domestic skills are sadly lacking!
A large part of writer Ted Willis’s work was attempting to capture ‘good, honest’ fumbling people caught up in tiny tragedies with social problems firmly anchored to the domestic, rather than the public and directly political’[1] But the question remains does Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) qualify as realism? As Lindsay Anderson observed at the time ‘(the film) is neo-unrealist: a little suburban story with unsuitable gloss’.[2] Dubbed ‘the Brief Encounter of the LCC tenants[3] but nowhere near as patronising, it suffers from lack of credibility mainly because of its casting. If this story of relationship breakdown took place in a 3-story semi in suburbia and not on the 3rd floor of Nightingale House in a small rather untidy council flat the cast would be fine. It’s not as though the acting’s bad just in the wrong setting with Mitchell deservedly winning the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival for her portrayal of a woman with obvious mental problems which it is suggested may have been brought on by the lose of her first child one week after its birth.

Jim Preston has to make a choice. 

This remake of an ITV Television Play first shown on the 28th June 1956 was directed by J Lee Thompson (The Yellow Balloon 1953, Tiger Bay 1959). The camera work is over indulgent always framing scenes rather than filming them ‘straight on’, which keeps the audience arms length from the characters that tends to exclude any empathy they may or may not deserve. Having spent some of my childhood in a similar block of LCC London flats I must admit I find it strange that the Preston’s loud music did not warrant complaints!

The films location.

[1] Daily Herald January 1961.
[2] New Statesman October 1957.
[3] Daily Mail October 1957

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