Hobson's Choice (1954) Poster

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Is there a Maggie out there for ME?
mlevans26 February 2003
From a movie I had absolutely never heard of, Hobson's Choice has quickly flown to the top third of my all-time favorite film list. I happened upon this little gem by doing a Charles Laughton search in the video data bank of our university library computer system. I had been hoping we might have The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We didn't, but we DID have this wonderful period comedy.

Set in Salford, England in the 1890s, this David Lean film brims with good humor, spunk, fine black and white cinematography and absolutely first-rate acting. Charles Laughton plays Henry Horatio Hobson, a typical successful late Victorian Era businessman. One can almost picture him singing `A British bank is run with precision; a British home should expect nothing less,' as David Tomlinson would croon a decade later in Mary Poppins. A widower with three grown daughters, Hobson fancies himself to be king of his castle. Of course the daughters really wield the power-especially Maggie (Brenda de Banzie), the oldest.

When Hobson determines to marry off the two younger daughters, but declares Maggie too old for marrying (at 30), she takes it as a challenge. Virtually demanding marriage and a business partnership with her father's best shoemaker, Willie Mossop (John Mills), she engineers not only her own marriage but that of her sisters, as well.

Laughton was a true talent. I had never seen him do comedy. His round, rubber face is as expressive in Hobson's Choice as any comedian I have seen. His commanding stage presence is obvious. Many scenes stick in the mind, such as Hobson marching huffily toward his favorite watering hole, his lackey right behind him. With spirited march music playing, they stride through the street, making an amusing visual contrast. Laughton is tall, erect, and extremely rotund. He is headed straight forward, head held high and back arched proudly, as any proper self-made English gentleman of his day would be. His friend is perpetually hunched toward his benefactor, his thin, frail frame turned partially toward Laughton as he walks, intent on hearing and agreeing with every word Hobson utters. Others have already commented on the moon scene and his charge up the stairs after a night of drinking, both of which were delightful.

Of course de Banzie is magnificent as Maggie and Mills is great as Willie. His growth as the movie goes along is gradual and natural. The excitement of going out on their own, getting a loan and buying the needed supplies to open a business certainly connects with me. I have been there twice, although ultimately failing (at least on the bottom line) both times. Had I had a Maggie to support, encourage and inspire me, as well as to tend to the business side of things, I really believe I would have succeeded like Willie does. (Any Maggies out there???)

Daphne Anderson and Prunella Scales are very good as the attractive, but spoiled younger sisters. Obviously Maggie was raised in the earlier days when Hobson was building up his business and Vicky and Alice after he had acquired much of his affluence. The whole cast is extremely sound and Lean's direction is superb. I find myself surprised that I had NOT heard of Hobson's Choice. This is a dandy little film and a real plumb to have found as I found it. If you want to see a great film, either watch Hobson's Choice or watch another film with the VCR/DVD player unplugged. How's THAT for a `Hobson's choice?'
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undemanding fun
robot_sex28 October 2003
A far cry from the pomp and spectacle of Lean's later, grandiose productions, this gently romantic comedy of manners is based on Harold Brighouse's 1915 play, and sits alongside Great Expectations and Brief Encounter as one of the best films he made in black and white. Lean's restrained direction allows the sparkling scripts pithy banter plenty of room to breathe, whilst deftly avoiding the static wordiness inherent to most stage for screen adaptations.

At its core, Hobson's Choice has a towering performance by Charles Laughton, whose Henry Hobson is a marvelous mixture of snarling brute and whimpering child, huffing and sputtering his way through scene after scene of delightfully sexist dialogue. Crucially however, Laughton resists the temptation to go over the top, instead keeping his Hobson firmly on the plausible side of caricature, thus ensuring that the pathos of this potentially unlikeable character remains firmly intact, and whilst we eagerly await his comeuppance, we never lose sympathy for the curmudgeonly old fogey. Also outstanding is Brenda De Banzie as the long suffering but incredibly strong willed Maggie, an amazingly strong female character, made all the more remarkable given that the film has its origins in a text now 90 years old.

The crisp black and white photography, courtesy of Jack Hildyard(who also collaborated with Lean on his epic Bridge on the River Kwai) is stunning, beautifully capturing the grimy charm of its Victorian setting, and giving a vivid sense of gritty imtimacy to the dank interiors. Scenes featuring a drunken Hobson are gloriously realised, and gives rise to one of the films most enduring images, that of Hobson attacking the moons reflection in a puddle. Likewise, production design is impeccable, the crews recreation of Victorian era Salford even stretched to Lean throwing rubbish into the river Irwell(the council, on hearing that a film was to be made on location there, spared no expense clearing the riverbanks and water of any such refuse the week before cast and crew arrived, oblivious to the fact that this disarray was precisely the reason Lean and co. had chosen to shoot there).

This amiable comedy is often overlooked in favour of Leans more epic works, but to dismiss it out of hand as something the director cut his teeth on before moving on to better and brighter things would be a grave error. Its unassuming nature, and admittedly slightly saggy third act aside, it's a film with considerable charm, wit, eccentric characters and some hilarious set pieces.
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Perfect film
ellkew11 July 2002
Made by one of the greatest practitioners of film making ever, this is a superb story with excellent characters. I defy anyone not to enjoy Charles Laughton's towering performance. There is so much in this film to revel in. I love the way the men constantly think they are running the show when in fact the women are. Laughton clings on to the last vestiges of male power but is no match for his intelligent daughter played by Brenda de Banzie. The opening shot alone is superb with the wooden boot creaking in the wind. Although this is a slightly ominous first shot, the film soon becomes peppered with touches of comedy throughout. The scene when Hobson walks back from the Moonrakers pub is wonderful and sublime. Purely magical cinema as he looks at the moon reflected in the puddles and tries to catch it. Lean lets us take in the scene instead of rushing it. This film is often overlooked when people talk about Lean's oeuvre. I have no idea why.
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Entertainment supreme
benbrae7629 August 2006
This delightful seldom aired little masterpiece of a movie is one of David Lean's best, and one of my favourites.

Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda de Banzie, and all the supporting cast are on top form in this story (based on the play by Harold Brigham) about the goings-on in a Salford shoe shop.

Hobson, the hard drinking proprietor of the shop, is a "big fish in a little pond", but who gets his come-uppance by way of his eldest daughter and his erstwhile illiterate boot hand.

If you're looking for entertainment value, forget all those sumptuous looking blockbuster movies, which have great special effects but sometimes very little plot, this little black and white movie runs rings round them.
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what an endearing and sweet little movie
MartinHafer9 June 2005
I was caught totally off-guard by this film. While I LOVE old films, I never expected to be so captivated by this one--particularly since it's not exactly the most famous movie of the time.

The acting and writing are what make this movie so wonderful. The main character, Charles Laughton, is a domineering old goat who decides to retire. When this is announced, his oldest (and seemingly not so pretty) daughter sets out to find a husband. While not exactly romantic in her methods, it is wonderful to see the transformation she makes in her hapless husband (John Mills). By the end of the film, I found myself laughing at the new man she had helped create! Give it a try--you won't be sorry.
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great film
kyle_furr11 February 2004
A great film with a great cast and a great director. The plot has Charles Laughton the owner of shoe shop that is run by his three daughters. Laughton is also a big drunk and his daughters want to get married but he won't let them. This is the third film I've seen of David Lean, after The bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, and i think he's better at directing these kind of films. Charles Laughton is great and so is the rest of the cast. If you get a chance, watch it, you won't be disappointed.
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Just a great film!
zetes5 November 2002
Charles Laughton plays an alcoholic widower (and happy about it) with three adult daughters. The oldest of them, Maggie (Brenda de Banzie), is 30, and the other two are (I would guess) in their early 20s. He wants to marry off the younger two, but the eldest he finds useful to his bootmaking business. "You're too old," he tells her when she asks about her turn to be married. Well, Laughton has raised his daughter to be too shrewd for his own good! When faced with her father's challenge, she lands a fiancé within an hour. He is Willie Mossop (John Mills), one of Laughton's own craftsmen (and thus of a lower class). Earlier the same day, a rich woman had walked into the bootshop for the sole purpose of praising Willie's master craftsmanship. Maggie is a clever businesswoman, and she figures that she can help a man with Willie's skill succeed. Laughton, of course, disapproves, but Maggie is too strong willed. And, again, clever. She quickly and flawlessly develops plans to come out above her father.

I haven't exactly said what the mood of this film is yet. It could be a drama, but it is a comedy of manners and class. It glides along with such an amazingly graceful wit, and it's oh so gentle. The budding relationship between Willie and Maggie is simply amazing to watch. The engagement and marriage begins as just a business engagement. I was actually worried that Maggie, so efficient, would destroy her husband's will. But she softens as she realizes what a lovable man she has shanghaied. The film contains one of the most remarkably funny sex scenes I can recall; well, pre-sex scene, of course. The couple's marriage day is winding to an end, and we see that Willie isn't quite sure what's to happen between them as he slowly gets ready for bed. We see how it all worked out the next morning when he won't even let his wife set a teacup and saucer down before he rushes at her with the first kiss of the morning.

It's also a lot of fun to see an old blowhard like Laughton's Hobson get his bubble burst. Laughton is easily one of the best actors in history. We have nothing half as good today. He's not especially likeable here, but he is awfully amusing. Near the film's open, the only way he can get up the stairs to bed while drunk is to do it at a sprint with his arms held out to balance. Lean's direction is quite good, as well. I am not extremely familiar with his entire career; I only know his three biggest films. I'm glad to have finally got to a humbler Lean. This is at least as good as Lawrence. I have to mention one other greatly subtle scene: Hobson, p****d in both the British and American meanings of the word, spies the reflection of the full moon in a puddle of rainwater. He imagines it looking down on him with contempt, so he rushes to it and stomps it. When the water becomes still again, the moon is back. Oh wait, no! It's not the moon, but Hobson's fat face filling in exactly where the moon had been! 9/10.
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One of the greatest British movies of all time
graeme-tuck2 August 2005
This film is still one of my all time favourites. The acting is superb, especially from Sir John Mills who delivers the most convincing piece of acting I have seen. Every part of this film is a joy to watch, from Charles Laughtons drunken behaviour to Brenda De Banzie's sheer determination to get what she wants by forcing Mills' character to stand up for himself once in his life.

They don't make films like this anymore, no profanity, no nudity and no innuendo.

A perfect family movie. You'd be mad to miss this next time you see it's coming on TV .
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Brilliant writing and brilliant execution!
clairus9927 May 2004
Who isn't good in this film?

Brenda de Banzie (sp) was perfectly cast in this film and really worthy of mention! I love it when a woman knows what she wants and goes and sorts it out herself! Inspirational, especially for the 50s, and the victorian era it's set in!

John Mills, is always good, so that's no surprise, and you can't imagine anyone but Charles Laughton as Hobson.

The lack of an Oscar nomination, let alone award, just goes to show what a political and flavour-of-the-month farce it is. Is there really acting talent like this in 'Lord of the Rings'...?
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Realizing Your Potential
bkoganbing2 October 2006
Hobson's Choice is a delightful old play that is set in Manchester in the United Kingdom during Edwardian times. Among other things we see during this film adaption of it are temperance marchers and suffragettes, reminders that women were too often looked on as chattel, especially if the man of the house is one Henry H. Hobson.

Hobson's pretty typical of the male Britisher in Edwardian times. As written by Harold Brighouse and played Charles Laughton, he's a blustering old tyrant who dominates his three daughters in every way possible. His wife is gone and the three daughters as he views it seem to have been put on earth to serve him. He pays none of them wages to live independently, but without realizing it he's grown quite dependent on them. Especially on his eldest played by Brenda DaBanzie.

She's practically running his custom made boot&shoe establishment so he can spend time lounging at the pub. But DaBanzie has had quite enough of that. If Laughton had his way she'd be living with him permanently. Brenda's got different plans. She's got her idea on a husband, a skilled craftsman who works in Hobson's shop named Willy Mossop. He's a mild mannered fellow who doesn't realize his own worth. But before the film ends, the worm does indeed turn.

If Hobson's Choice has a fault it's that the whole film centers around the three principals, no other characters are really developed here. But Laughton, DaBanzie and John Mills as Willy Mossop give absolutely perfect characterizations in their respective roles.

Charles Laughton gives one of his best screen performances for David Lean in Hobson's Choice. Imagine Captain Bligh as a comic character and you've got Hobson. My guess is that Hobson was very typical of his age in his sexist views of life. What his late wife must have put up with. His scenes with Brenda DaBanzie have a lot of the same spark that characterize his work with his wife Elsa Lanchester in other films.

Brenda DaBanzie was at the height of her career, this and her work in The Man Who Knew Too Much the following year are her best known roles. She matches Laughton every step of the way, they are really a delight to see and listen to, in fact the dialog in their scenes is so good you can enjoy just turning away and listening to the film.

John Mills also gets one of his best roles. He's a man who grows in confidence in himself through DaBanzie's efforts. In the end watch who is dictating to whom.

A friend of mine who's from the Manchester area said that the film was shot in the nearby town of Selford because it looked more like Manchester of the Edwardian era than Manchester of 1954 did. He also says that Laughton and the rest of the cast got the dialog and idiom of the Lancashire area down perfectly and were quite believable in their parts for a British audience, let alone an American one.

Hobson's choice is a great film from David Lean and should be seen again and again whenever it's broadcast.
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Top 10
craigirvin1 January 2010
I came across this movie, not expecting much from the trailer which was not well done. I had searched for Charles Laughton movies because his acting presence can make even a bad movie bearable. But then I saw David Lean was the director, and my hopes rose. A little way into it I found myself laughing, wondering if that could last, which it did increasingly, and with other emotions mixed in. What an extraordinary film. John Mills is stellar. You can see why Lean used him in so many of his movies. The rest of the cast is top notch and acting is superb. The script is meticulous and the Lean photography...what more could you want. I didn't have a comedy in my top 10 before. Now I do.
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Who Knew Black & White Could *Sparkle* !!
coo-ee24 November 2009
This film was purely delightful, from start to finish. After reading the description on the DVD cover I expected to like it, but within the first 5 minutes of viewing, I knew I would love it.

I had heard of Charles Laughton, but don't believe I had watched him before. What an eye opener--he is truly a phenomenal actor. Watching him puts to shame many of the modern actors I've enjoyed.

Brenda De Banzie's energy and drive was nothing less than thrilling to watch. Simply reading a description of her character might make one think she would come off as unpleasantly bossy, but nothing of the sort. She's firm and commanding, but feminine and loving at the same time.

John Mills is adorable, transforming at a perfect pace, and his interactions with "Maggie" made me smile again and again. And I must also mention that, having known the lovely Prunella Scales only from "Fawlty Towers," I got a kick out of seeing her as such a young girl.

"Hobson's Choice" will be gracing my viewing screen again, I'm sure. =)
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"There's brass in boots"
Steffi_P23 April 2008
David Lean's last film in black and white, and his last set in England, is a gentle comedy about class mobility, marriage, and curmudgeonly old men making way for a generation of independent women. Lean had been adapting plays for the screen since the beginning of his career, and he'd already done a comedy with Blithe Spirit in 1945, but his experience by the time of Hobson's Choice is showing. His confident direction coupled with a top-notch cast and a great script make this a real treat.

The starting point of Hobson's Choice is a typically memorable comedy performance from Charles Laughton. Every film he is in is at risk of turning into The Charles Laughton show – rather a mixed blessing because he tends to overshadow everything else – but here his exuberant performance is offset by strong turns from lead players John Mills and Brenda De Banzie. Mills was in his mid-40s by this point, but with his fresh face and innocent manner he was still just about believable as the archetypal young lad. De Banzie was a stage actress who was unfortunately rare on the big screen. She makes another memorable performance in Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Mills and De Banzie make such likable characters out of the central couple and it is their performances that hold the viewer's attention as much as Laughton's blustering buffoonery.

He wasn't known for his comedy direction, but Lean's sense of rhythm, particularly in the opening sequences and later in the famous scene in which Laughton drunkenly chases the moon's reflection in a puddle, is perfectly in step with Laughton's comic timing. The romantic scenes between Mills and De Banzie are directed with as much tenderness as any other love story Lean made, although he brilliantly punctures the sentimentality with a joke whenever there is a danger of them slipping into mawkishness.

Hobson's Choice is undoubtedly the happiest picture Lean ever made and, in keeping with the sweet tone, he has a real aesthetic approach to shot composition, with some pretty landscape shots in the park, and a focusing on facial close-ups. There is a real sense of harmony to many of the images, for example a recurring motif with leaves (and leaflets) blowing across the street, confetti at the wedding, and snow falling over the town.

When all's said and done though, it's the charming story and witty dialogue that makes Hobson's Choice a winner. Lean clearly knew by this point that the job of a director is to serve the screenplay and, avoiding the occasionally distracting expressionism of his earlier films, presents a story full of human warmth and gentle humour.
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A movie about someone in my family?
momanddaddavis22 July 2005
I was surprised when I saw this movie to find out that Willie Mossop is the name of one of my ancestors!! (My maiden name IS Mossop!!) But besides that-I thought the movie was a great piece of British comedy. The story was funny yet believable. The characters were comedic and the actors were perfect in their respective roles. This movie was definitely Charles Laughton at his best. John Mills was perfect as the shy man who, with the take-charge-wife, actually became a real manly husband. A great movie to watch again and again. And of course, I will buy this so all my children can see it and "keep it in the family". Since I am an only child and a woman-this branch of the Mossop tree ends with me.
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Absolutely splendid
TheLittleSongbird24 August 2015
As a big fan of a lot of David Lean's films (not seen a bad film from him so far, though understandably some of his films are not for all tastes), Hobson's Choice didn't at all disappoint. It's one of those films that is almost on par with his very best work, and is deserving of more credit than it gets.

The cinematography is splendidly grimy and almost hypnotic, with very sumptuous but also suitably gritty costumes and sets and atmospheric lighting, and Lean directs with supreme confidence and tight control, allowing the humour to endear and charm rather than get too heavy-footed. While slightly over-the-top on occasions (though never distractingly so), Malcolm Arnold's score is delightful and fits within the film and period well. Hobson's Choice is superbly scripted, the comedy dialogue is deliciously witty and never got less than a smile from me while watching, while the more dramatic parts are very poignantly done with Maggie and Willie's relationship being written and portrayed with a real tenderness.

Hobson's Choice's story always captivates and never for me got tedious. It was funny, charming and sometimes moving, and has one of Lean's and Laughton's most unforgettable moments where Hobson puzzles over the disappearance of the reflection of the Moon from the puddles he staggers past on his way home, it is such a beautifully filmed, acted and directed scene with perfectly pitched timing. It is superbly acted by the three leads too, with Charles Laughton's magnificent performance being one of the best of his whole career in a role tailor- made for him (this is how to make such a huge impression without dominating over the story too much, a mistake made with Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn that felt like The Charles Laughton Show, with a lot of over-acting, and not enough of Hitchcock or Daphne Du Maurier's styles coming through).

On paper, Brenda De Bazie's shouldn't have been that sympathetic, but De Bazie's acting is so good, headstrong and heartfelt, that she often was the character I identified with most. John Mills, in an unusual role for him, gives a performance worthy of being called the best of his collaborations with Lean, there are a good number of layers more than any of his other characters in a Lean film and Mills conveys all those layers beautifully. All the cast are spot-on, in a cast that sees Prunella Scales in an early role, but it's the leads and Lean's direction that will be remembered chiefly with this film.

Overall, a simply splendid film on all counts. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox
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" Hobson's Choice Is A Splendid Choice "
PamelaShort25 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Hobson's Choice is entertainment on film at it's grandest. First class performances from this solid sterling cast of brilliant British actors. Charles Laughton is absolutely perfect in his role as Henry Hobson, the arrogant widower with a weakness for the pubs who bosses his three daughters lives. Brenda De Banzie gives a very fine performance as the strong willed, eldest daughter Maggie. John Mills gives a most winning performance, as Willie Mossop, who transforms from a uneducated, unpolished character to an optimistic, assertive and finally self-assured man. He plays the part in such a subtle manner, which serves to make his character all the more believable. Daphne Anderson and Prunella Scales both give exceptional performances as Hobson's two youngest daughters. Set in 1880s London, Hobson is a boot-shop owner, who lords over his employees and three daughters by day, then nightly heads to the pubs. His strong willed eldest daughter Maggie, finally breaks free of her father's tyranny. She marries the slow Willie Mossop, and together they set up their own rival boot- shop when Hobson refuses to give her a dowry. Seething with anger, Hobson rants and raves, until he finally agrees to merger with his daughter. This now gives her husband Willie a new found confidence, as he has now been given a large position and the freedom over managing the business. This charming comedy with it's well written story, along with the magnificent acting, reaps a perfect, must see classic movie, that will always remain enjoyable to watch.
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King Lear on a pub crawl
Irie21217 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The King Lear reference is obvious, and too apt to ignore in describing "Hobson's Choice." The 1954 comedy has more than a bit of truth in it, plus the kind of bawdy dialog that Shakespeare would have admired. David Lean's direction is pitch-perfect, as is Jack Hildyard's photography of the dark, grim, wet north of England, and Peter Taylor's fluid editing. Four years later, all three won Oscars collaborating on a dramatically different movie-- one of the spectacles Lean is known for, "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

Our hero, Henry Horatio Hobson, is played with all the gusto and inventiveness we expect from Charles Laughton. He is the carefree widowed father of three grown daughters, whom he freely insults ("You have the kind of waist that's natural in wasps but unnatural in women"). As a patriarch, he's all pomp and no circumstance. The daughters see to his every need, managing his boot shop, which is also their home, and indulging his dogged alcoholism. He's a hilarious drunk, make no mistake, and Laughton delivers at least two of the greatest drunk scenes ever put on film in this performance. We first meet him staggering home from the pub and into his shop, where his eldest daughter, Maggie (Brenda de Banzie), leads him to his bedroom, which is on the second floor. That's when Laughton kicks into high gear, swinging his arms at the bottom of the stairs to get up momentum, then hurling himself up the steps, arms whirling like propellers, finally landing at the top with his last ounce of energy, beaming with pride. When Maggie lights the way into the bedroom with a lantern, he raises her arm, transforming her into the Statue of Liberty, then falls into bed, a heap of self-congratulatory giggles.

After that intro, there's no sin Hobson can commit -- and he commits plenty-- that can't be forgiven. He snorts at Maggie's plan to find a husband, saying, "She's a bit on the ripe side for marrying, is our Maggie." But Maggie ultimately lives up to her statuesque pose by liberating herself: she marries his most talented cobbler, the timid Willie Mossop (John Mills in a marvelously versatile performance), and they set up business in competition. A betrayal of her father? Yes, but who can blame her? The other two daughters find husbands as well, of course, in spite of the fact that Hobson refuses to pay "settlements" (dowry).

I was so thoroughly enjoying Hobson's Choice that when Mossop and Maggie tied the knot and retreated, with no pomp but plenty of circumstance, into their bedroom, I sadly concluded that the movie was nearly over. But then the light of day broke on the next scene, and I felt as satisfied as-- well, not as the bride and groom, but still. The final sequence with Hobson involves a lawyer ("You bloodsucking, money-grabbing...") and a doctor, who diagnoses "chronic alcoholism, a serious case." The happily married Mrs. Mossop comes to his rescue, solving all problems with amusing resourcefulness, including the gentle urging of her mousy husband toward self-confidence and eventual prosperity. They corner the freshly sober Hobson into a new enterprise: Mossop & Hobson. Not that he had much choice at that point. Hobson's choices all happened along the way toward this conclusion, he chose wrong every time, and in the end he sits down to the consequences of the game he played, as do we all.

Laughton's performance is so masterful (as usual) that I can't picture anyone else as Hobson. It would be like trying to recast my drunk uncle Ambrose. Nobody can play him, he's Ambrose. I can imagine other British actors suited to the role-- Alistair Sim, Peter Ustinov, Robert Newton-- but Laughton brings such vigorous, shameless abandon to Hobson that it's hard to even think of his performance as superbly disciplined craft. He's Hobson. In such a flamboyant, boozy role, it's all too easy to chew the scenery (e.g., Lee Marvin as Kid Shaleen or Peter O'Toole as Alan Swann). Not Laughton. He has a naturalism that seems to actually repel artifice. In fact, when it comes to playing comic drunks-- and I don't mean tipsy, I mean falling down drunk-- I can't even think who would come in second after him in a contest that includes Richard E. Grant as Withnail, Dudley Moore as Arthur, even David Wayne as E.H. Hess or as Digger Barnes. That's sky-high praise for the pretend high.
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The struggle for realism!
jack.woollven9 May 2000
This is for me, like Charles Pottins, also a film with childhood memories (I was 8, my mother was usherette in the local cinema and I couldn't be left at home alone!) Mr. Pottins says the river Irwell was cleaned up for the film. In fact the council had cleaned up the stretch of the river and the riverbanks when they heard the film makers were coming, but David Lean actually wanted all the dirt, grime and pollution to play the love-scene against and had to recreate it by throwing rubbish in the river, painting grime on the lampposts and setting off smoke-bombs to produce some smog! (This info courtesy of "David Lean - A Biography" by Kevin Brownlow, ISBN 0312145780, - absolutely compulsory reading for anyone interested in David Lean and his films. Highly recommended.) Note to Studios/DVD-Producers: Let's have this film, in a good quality transfer, on DVD please!
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superb Northern comedy
didi-56 May 2003
Hobson's Choice starts with dopey Will Mossop being awakened into dreams of moving from the Salford cobblers' shop where he works, to a great shop in St Ann's Square, Manchester, by feisty spinster Maggie Hobson, daughter of the hard-drinking, tight-fisted Hobson, citizen of the community and Will's boss.

John Mills plays Will with the right amount of bewilderment and determination, at turns touching and hilarious; while Brenda de Banzie gives Maggie a sense of desperation throughout her scheme to make 'her man' a success. The great Yorkshire actor Charles Laughton is superb as Hobson.

Keen tv fans will spot Prunella Scales as little sister Vicky, Jack 'Albert Tatlock from Coronation Street' Howarth as Tubby, and John Laurie (Dad's Army's Fraser) as the brusque Scots doctor. Also in evidence in the cast is the reliable Richard Wattis as the pompous lawyer.

Hobson's Choice is a delightful play, a credit to David Lean and his cast, and a flag for the charms of old North-West England. It's a pleasure to be in the company of such a talented cast and a joy to watch this many, many times.

Best scenes include the moon in the puddles, Will's 'it's Oldfield Road for us', and Maggie's 'well, you'd better kiss me then'. And never has a man gone to his doom with more feeling than John Mills' Will on his wedding night!
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"Hobson's Choice" is Laughton's best!!!
jonnyrancher29 July 2004
Charles Laughton is one of the most under-rated actors in all of filmdom. Now, I know what you're thinking: Charles Laughton was an Academy Award winner; he appeared in some of the most memorable films in Hollywood history ("Mutiny on the Bounty," "Hunchback of Notre Dame," "The Private Lives of Henry VII [for which he won the Oscar.]) How could he be under-rated? In a career that spanned many decades, Laughton never seemed to garner the respect and admiration many of his "golden-age-of-Hollywood" colleagues engendered.

But as "youngsters" discover the power of Laughton's Blye and the pathos of his Quasimodo, his role in "Hobson's Choice" is sure to endear and captivate students of REAL acting. Laughton is delightful as the stubborn (and sometimes drunken) owner of a shoe store who parts ways with his equally stubborn daughter.

Each cast member of this wonderfully written, superbly acted comedy puts in a terrific performance (Watch for a very young Prunella Scales ["Sybil" from "Fawlty Towers"] as Laughton's other daughter Vicky.]"Hobson's Choice" is a bona fide gem!
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Victorian England was never more funny and charming
seoulless2 March 2006
Henry Hobson is a moderately prosperous shoemaker with three obstacles to a contented life. A widower, he is beset by three daughters all wanting to marry. Although willing enough to part with the two younger women, he is determined to keep Maggie, the best (and unpaid) worker. By turns comical and heart warming, the struggle between a tyrannical father and his clever daughter, and the developing relationship between Maggie and Will Mossop, the husband she has unilaterally selected, propel the plot to its satisfying conclusion. Along the way, the viewer is given a fascinating glimpse of life in the lower middle class in 19th century England.

A flawless gem, with great performances by Charles Laughton, Brenda De Banzie and John Mills. Wholeheartedly recommended.
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By Gum!
emma_mullinger28 April 2003
I saw this film for the first time recently and it is a delight.

All of the performances are top rate, and especially noteworthy is the relationship between Maggie (Brenda de Banzie) and Will (John Mills.) Maggie starts out by simply informing the mouselike Will, in a very businesslike manner, that "You'll do for me," recognising that he is both the key to her economic security and that she can see potential in him that nobody else can.

With an arrogance that she can only have inherited from her father (Henry Hobson, played by Charles Laughton), she dispatches Will's current girlfriend and sets to work on their private and business partnership. Under her firm grip, Will's confidence blossoms, and the 'before and after' scenes of their wedding night are a delight to watch. As the film progresses, their partnership becomes less dominated by Maggie, and develops into one of equality and mutual respect. You get the impression that this was Maggie's objective all along.

This wonderful relationship between two of the main characters, along with Charles Laughton's brilliant comic turn and David Lean's beautiful direction, makes this film a firm favourite for me.
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Shopkeepers, in a nation of shopkeepers.
rmax30482314 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This seemed to get off to a disappointingly slow start. It's been lauded so often because of its director, David Lean, and the performances of its leads, especially Charles Laughton, that I expected a reckless comedy along the lines of Ealing Studio's. Well, it's not that. It's slow, yes, but it's charming too, and the story, which is an insane combination of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" and "King Lear", slowly engrosses a viewer because of its characterizations.

Briefly, Laughton is an irascible boot maker in Salford, an industrial city near Manchester, a widower with three unmarried daughters. He considers the oldest daughter, Brenda Da Banzie, "too ripe" for marriage because she's thirty years old.

She may be thirty but she's as sharp as a tack. While Laughton is the owner of the shop, Da Banzie runs the place. She brims over with business acumen. And when it becomes clear that the shop does so well with high-end clientèle primarily because of the skill of one of the boot makers, John Mills, she marries Mills, plucks him out of Laughton's cellar, and establishes him in his own shop. Laughton is a drunk who is finally forced to quit. The remaining two daughters marry upscale -- a lawyer and a wholesaler -- and become snooty. Result: Mills and Da Banzie move back into Laughton's now almost deserted shop and form a partnership with him. There's no question but that, with Mills' boot making skill and Da Banzie's business sense, they'll not only succeed but perhaps open another shop in the big city -- Manchester. The comically domineering Laughton is put out by his having to form a partnership but he saves his dignity by DEMANDING that the partnership be sealed on paper, which is of course what the others want -- and Laughton struts off down the street as if he were the Cardo and Decumanus of the whole boot making industry.

Laughton's performance as a drunk and a blustering authority figure is as good as any he's given. John Mills progresses nicely from a pale, cellar-dwelling wimp with an unkempt bowl haircut, to a snazzily dressed tradesman, almost convinced that he's in command. Da Banzie does a professional job. Even the accents are accurate. ("Look" become "luke".)

What stands out is David Lean's direction. I'm not saying it just because he made some movies that were great by any measure. He's has the eye of a master painter for composition, and it's demonstrated repeatedly in what must be one of the least attractive urban landscapes imaginable -- a northern industrial city in 1890 with cobblestone streets, smokestacks, veils of what we would now call smog, and rows and rows of shabby and depressing brick town houses. When Mills is courting Da Banzie (or the other way round), they sit on a bench beside the slowly flowing river full of sludge. "I've seen it when it was clear," Mills remarks.

But Lean's direction, Jack Hildyard's photography, and the actors bring warmth and grace to this unpromising milieu.
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Hobson's Choice is one of my favorite films.
671721 June 2002
I saw Hobson's Choice on the AMC channel about 3 years ago and enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, I didn't record it. I have been faithfully watching for it to appear on TV again without success. The other day when I was in the public library I thought of checking the catalog of videos available through the library-----BINGO!!! What a wonderful surprise. I just finished viewing it and I enjoyed it even more than the first time I saw the film.
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Yet another b/w masterpiece from Lean!
darth_sidious24 January 2001
This is yet another masterpiece from David Lean, one of his last black and white pictures before moving to the huge productions.

The film is great for the entire family. Surprisingly, the picture's female lead is portrayed as a tough cookie and is given a big part in the picture, I'm glad it worked!

The direction is stunning, David Lean really had mastered his craft in England, he always chose interesting stories and subjects. The films' recreation of the 1890s is stunning, very detailed!

The performances are stunning, Charles Laughton is stunning!!! Brenda De Banzie comes across as loveable person and John Mills uses his well-rounded thespian skills to great effect. The supporting cast are perfect, too.

The screenplay is very good, but it does lose momentum in the 2nd half of the film.

Excellent stuff!
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