Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for October on TCM

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) and the capable old maid Maggie (Brenda De Banzie).

Maggie runs the shop and the household. Willie Mossop (John Mills) 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 awkward 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.


  1. I love David Lean movies but this is one that I have yet to see. I am going to make sure I see it on TCM. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Laughton is wonderful in this. A great choice for Oct, CW. Very funny and it was nice to see a strong woman character for a change. I like Lean's 50's stuff quite a bit. Of course, the decade includes my favorite Lean film, Bridge on the River Kwai, but Summertime is terrfic too.

  3. The 50s were indeed an incredibly creative time for David Lean and the benefit comes to us all these years later. When is Laughton not wonderful? In my youth I believe I was guilty of taking him for granted.

  4. A wonderful film. I expect great work from Mills and Laughton but Brenda de Banzie really surprised me with her superb performance.
    This is the last Lean film that I really love, after this he moved on to his (in my opinion) overblown epics, but from 1942 to 1954 he was up there with the very best.

  5. Love this: "His foolish drunk, chasing moonbeams through puddles is a treat in silent communication."

    Been years since I saw this one, so I'm looking forward to it. Great cast.

  6. This truly is one "for the ages," CW. It was "Hobson's Choice" that led me to realize I have a preference for David Lean's earlier, less epic films.

    Brenda de Banzie is amazing - she nearly walks away with the film, but for the equally sublime performances of Laughton and Mills. Love Laughton's drunken caper with moonbeams - and the wedding night scene is so sly and funny and sweet.

    Wonderful choice for October.

  7. Lean put so much of his life, time and effort into those epic movies, yet here we are, devoted fans of his smaller, more intimate films. They touch our hearts.

  8. CW,
    Interesting that Hobson's Choice won a BAFTA.
    Perhaps it's just me but whenever I think of Laughton I think of him in her epic period piece roles. While they're great I much prefer him in this genre. But boy had he put on the pounds at this point. (Elsa must have been a fantastic cook) and they had that huge estate where he could have gone for a walk on occasion.

    Another great review! Annoying women while not at the pub living it up is a role he was made for. ha ha

  9. Totally agree with you on this one. Special mention to Malcolm Arnold for his marvelous score. I hope everyone gets a chance to see it.

  10. Page, the bigger than life Laughton certainly was an actor of epic proportions. I can imagine his look of horror at your suggestion of a walk.

    Kevin, you are so right about the score. It's a perfect hand-in-glove match.

  11. Excellent choice, CW! It is indeed a treasure of a movie. Charles Laughton never did a bad performance, and as far as I know, never chose a bad movie. I didn't see this one until just a few years ago, and felt like I had found a little gem. Now I just have to see it again...

  12. "Hobson's Choice" is the reason I purchased a Korean box set of David Lean films. And, like most of your followers, I would watch it, "Brief Encounter", "Great Expectations", "This Happy Breed" and "Blithe Spirit" over and over again. Hey, I do!
    I hope your excellent blog introduces some people to this wonderful movie!!

  13. Becky and MissMcC, I think TCM has us in mind when they put their line-up together.

  14. While I enjoy Laughton, I think its Brenda De Banzie and John Mills that really steal the show.

    There's another 1931 film version which I haven't been able to locate.

  15. The only other version I have seen is the made-for-TV one with Richard Thomas as Willy, Sharon Gless and Jack Warden. I remember enjoying it back in the 80s, but haven't seen it since. I think we'll be a long time looking for the 1931 version.

  16. Caftan Woman, my husband Vinnie introduced me to HOBSON'S CHOICE a year or two back. He adored it, and he made a fan out of me, too! In addition to the wonderful story and acting, it was great fun to see Prunella Scales and Brenda de Banzie in their youth! C.W., this is a wonderful choice for your October pick!

  17. One of my all-time favorites! I wish Brenda de Banzie had made more films. She and John Mills are a terrific duo and (for me) steal the film from Laughton. Their wedding night scene is marvelously played.

  18. Dorian, hubbies certainly come in handy every once in a while.

    Rick, that wedding night scene couldn't be any more perfect.

  19. I have this on my Netflix queue. Maybe it's time to hop skip and jump over a few other titles, C.W.

    My mood these days is so 'iffy' it's hard to schedule anything. I think it's the change in the weather. I'm all antsy and wanting to do ten things at once. It never works. :)

    1. I hope you were able to fit Hobson's Choice into the lineup, Yvette. I know what you mean about that unsettled feeling. It is particularly galling when it comes to movies because we know the "right one" will start straitening things out.



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