And we continue with this series of 47 moments in film that I love. (Why 47?) I am almost not 47 anymore, so I should really get these done. This is number #45.
Directed by Sydney Pollack
An out-of-work actor discovers that the only way he can find work is to dress up as a woman and pass himself off as an actress. In this new identity, he finds unexpected success as part of the cast of a soap opera, but new complications as well as he falls in love with his co-star
The Set Up
In spite of the career success that Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) has found in his alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, the pressure of maintaining the charade is becoming too much. He decides its time to end his deception. An unexpected opportunity arises when a critical scene from his soap opera, Southwest General, must be re-filmed live…
During the live scene, “Dorothy” goes off book and beings to improvise a long and elaborate speech by his character, Emily Kimberley. The cast and crew, used to Dorothy’s adlibs, and under the pressure of the live filming situation, attempt to flow with the situation. Emily rambling becomes more and more convoluted, as he attempts to come to a point where he can get Dorothy eliminated from the television show. This eventually climaxes with a dramatic removal of his wig and an announcement that he’s not Emily Kimberley, but rather Edward Kimberly who has perpetrated this deception in order to avenge his sister.
The scene is hilarious. It’s all about Dustin Hoffman and how able he is to immerse himself in his part. Here, he really plays four characters at once, each in a bizarre chain of disguising themselves as each other. Michael Dorsey is acting like Dorothy Michaels who is playing Edward Kimberley on a TV show who is disguised as his sister Emily Kimberley. And Dustin Hoffman is the perfect sort of actor take on something like that and make it feel believable on every level. And the fact that he gives Edward Kimberley such a deep and affected voice is the icing on the cake. It’s such a satisfying and funny reveal.
That’s the end of Michael Dorsey appearing on the soap opera Southwest General, but it’s not the end of Michael learning the lessons to be a better person.