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Hobson’s Choice


Hobson’s Choice (1954) starring Charles Laughton, Brenda de Banzie, John Mills

Hobson’s Choice is a very enjoyable comedy, where a successful businessman and widower doesn’t want his daughters to marry — since he would have to pay their dowry. But the oldest daughter is both intelligent and determined …

Review of Hobson’s Choice

Virtually the entire cast at Hobson's business early in the film

Hobson’s Choice is a delightful comedy for several reasons, not the least of which is the excellent acting. Charles Laughton plays Hobson, the grumpy, controlling father. Hobson is a successful businessman who thinks a little more highly of himself than he should and more of his drink than of his daughters. Another delight is Brenda De Banzie as the oldest daughter. Maggie Hobson is a very intelligent woman, a forceful character, who is not the breathless beauty that would likely be cast today. She isn’t ugly, but she isn’t beautiful. Maggie starts romancing one of her father’s employees. John Mills plays William Mossop an uneducated man whose potential Maggie alone sees. She is sure of his ability and potential, but not of her own. It’s a touching romance. On their wedding day, Maggie is pleasantly surprised to find out that William truly loves her.

The oldest daughter's scheming comes to a point in Hobson's Choice

It’s due to the oldest daughter’s foresight and planning that her two sisters can also marry the men they love. Maggie’s schooling of her illiterate husband — delightfully shy on his wedding day, who begins to gain confidence with time and success — which leads to her rescuing of her father’s business, as he’s on the verge of drinking himself into the grave.

Product description of Hobson’s Choice courtesy of Amazon.com

Hobson clearly has a drinking problem

An unsung comic triumph from David Lean, Hobson’s Choice stars the legendary Charles Laughton as the harrumphing Henry Hobson, the owner of a boot shop in late-Victorian Northern England. With his haughty, independent daughter Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) decides to forge her own path, romantically and professionally, with the help of none other than Henry’s prized bootsmith Will (a splendid John Mills), father and daughter find themselves head-to-head in a fiery match of wills. Equally charming and caustic, Hobson’s Choice, adapted from Harold Brighouse’s famous play, is filled to the brim with great performances and elegant, inventive camera work.

Editorial review of Hobson’s Choice courtesy of Amazon.com

Hobson is drinking himself to death, as the doctor tells him

Britain’s greatest-ever film director David Lean wasn’t feted for providing belly-laughs. His finest films, from Great Expectations (1946) to Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are resolutely sober, which is more than can be said of Henry Horatio Hobson in his wonderfully comic encounter with the moon in Hobson’s Choice. Lean’s only other comedy was Blithe Spirit (1945), but here he approaches matters of the heart with a surprising lightness of touch and wins a marvellous performance from Charles Laughton–himself soon to make his one and only film as a director, Night of the Hunter (1955). The setting is late-19th century Salford (the b/w location filming is exceptional), and widower Henry Hobson forbids his three daughters to marry to avoid paying their dowries. Romance will not be thwarted by economics, and much humorous conflict ensues, interspersed with some serious and even disturbing moments–the shaving scene when Laughton gets the DTs is a queasily unbalanced. Brenda De Banzie is splendidly spirited as the eldest daughter, Maggie, while her fiance is played by the ever excellent John Mills, who would later win an Oscar for his part in Lean’s much more serious love story, Ryan’s Daughter (1970). –Gary S. Dalkin


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