By gum, this is a movie for the ages! Harold Brighouse's popular play Hobson's Choice as well as being continually produced since 1915, has been presented on screen many times. It is a winning play with memorable characters. The 1954 film directed by David Lean is a gem.
Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Laughton) is the successful manufacturer and seller of boots and shoes. He is the widowed father of three daughters, the pretty and romantically stifled Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales, Fawlty Towers) and the capable old maid Maggie (Brenda De Banzie, The Man Who Knew Too Much). Maggie runs the shop and the household. Willie Mossop (John Mills, Ryan's Daughter) creates the product the customer's flock to buy. Well, you may ask, what is it that Henry Horatio Hobson does? He drinks. He drinks to excess. And he bellows. He bellows and throws his weight around and considers himself to be quite the grand fellow. The lord and master of all he surveys.
Daphne Anderson, Brenda De Banzie, Prunella Scales
Daughter Maggie has plans. She has plans for a life for herself, and will drag her sisters into the light. Her plans do not coincide with the easy life her father has made for himself. Her plans include the painfully shy Willie Mossop. Why, oh why, is it that men since the days of the cave dwellers have failed to give a strong-minded woman her due?
Maggie Hobson is smart and a hard worker. She is ambitious and wants a home and a business of her own. Willie Mossop figures in both of her dreams. The painfully shy Willie Mossop, as well as the bombastic Henry Horatio Hobson are about to have their lives turned upside down.
Charles Laughton, as always, delights with this screen characterization. His "cock of the walk" attitude while among his pals at the pub doesn't fool anybody. His annoyance with young women who don't jump to his command is real. His foolish drunk, chasing moonbeams through puddles is a treat in silent communication. His poor soul routine when confronted with failure almost gets our pity.
Brenda De Banzie makes Maggie a heroine worth rooting for. Her necessary forcefulness guards her affectionate longings, as she has to bulldoze her way through a society which mocks not only her striving, but her very thought of going after what she wants. We see her heart and we see her mind as Maggie grabs a hold of life and starts to shake it up.
Charles Laughton, Brenda De Banzie, John Mills
John Mills is an absolute treasure as Willie Mossop. We mustn't be fooled into thinking a man of few words, and most of those supplied by Maggie Hobson, doesn't have a mind of his own. What happens to a shy and awkward man when success is thrust upon him?
Hobson's Choice is a comedy with heart because the characters are true and their portrayers are truthful. It is a memorable movie that will make you laugh and cheer.
In 1955, the BAFTA for Best British Film was awarded to Hobson's Choice. Brenda De Banzie, John Mills and the screenplay by David Lean, Norman Spencer and Wynyard Browne was also nominated.
TCM is screening Hobson's Choice on Sunday, October 28 at 10:00 am.