J Lee Thompson
A decade before kitchen sink cinema became de rigeur, Woman In A Dressing Gown existed as a heartbreaking British melodrama to rival in feeling the women’s pictures of Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray. Intensely claustrophobic, with an almost oppressive filmmaking dynamic, the film is a simmering tale of the impact of adultery on the psyche of three desperate characters in post-war London. As the eponymous Woman, hanging from a thread while the dishes pile up around her, Yvonne Mitchell won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.
Amy (Yvonne Mitchell, Queen of Spades, Tiger Bay, The Divided Heart) is a hopeless housewife – she burns meals, doesn’t finish the housework, listens to the radio too loud, and some days doesn’t event get around to getting dressed. By contrast her husband Jim (Anthony Quayle, Lawrence of Arabia, Ice Cold in Alex, The Eagle has Landed) is far more together, and still attractive. Jim has fallen in love with his young, beautiful secretary Georgie (Sylvia Syms, The Queen, Victim, Ice Cold in Alex), and when he tells Amy he is leaving her, her already fragile world threatens to fall apart.
The film is remarkable for its combustible atmosphere, centring around Mitchell’s performance as Amy Preston, the woman beset by the dowdiness she possesses in her husband’s eyes. Husband Jim (Anthony Quayle) swerves into the arms of pretty young colleague Georgie (Sylvia Syms) but his request for a divorce wrenches Amy into a dark reflection of what her life has become, in what remains as moving a portrayal of repressed desires as you’ll see onscreen.
Made with kinetic brio by director J Lee Thompson, whose trade in hard edged dramas such as Yield To The Night and Ice Cold In Alex led to his later triumph, the brutal thriller Cape Fear, the film offers an innovative social realist approach, touching on the era’s raw divisions of class and echoing the Angry Young Man wave of British theatre at the time, but with a distinctly feminine edge.
A brand new digital restoration from a 2k scan