🎥 Hobson’s Choice – 1954
The Story …
Henry Horatio Hobson is the autocratic proprietor of a moderately upmarket boot shop (boots, shoes and clogs) in 1880 Salford.
A widower, Hobson is a notorious miser with three grown daughters: Maggie and her younger and less-dedicated sisters, Alice and Vicky. All three have kept house and worked in their father’s shop for years without wages, and Alice and Vicky are eager to marry, and their intentions infect Maggie.
Alice has been seeing Albert Prosser, a young up-and-coming solicitor, while Vicky prefers Freddy Beenstock, the son of a corn merchant. Hobson has no objection to losing Alice and Vicky, but Maggie is another matter …
He tells her she is too old for such things, “…thirty and shelved.” While mocking her to his drinking cronies at The Moonrakers pub, he freely admits that she is too useful to lose.
Insulted, Maggie decides to marry Willie Mossop, the shop’s gifted but under-appreciated bootmaker, despite the timid man having no such aspirations. When Willie informs her he has already been bullied into an engagement to his landlady’s daughter, Maggie promptly puts an end to that – to his great relief.
Maggie tells her father of her intentions and delivers her terms. Hobson attempts to intimidate Willie instead, by threatening to “beat the love out” of him with his belt. Willie declares he has no love for Maggie, but if Hobson strikes him, he will stick to her like glue. Hobson strikes him twice, and the couple walk out.
Maggie seeks a loan of £100 from Mrs. Hepworth, a very satisfied customer. When Mrs. Hepworth asks about security, Maggie says that Willie is the security: he is the finest bootmaker in Lancashire. With cash in hand, Maggie finds a basement that will serve as both shop and living quarters, furnishes it, has Willie buy tools and supplies, and arranges for the banns to be read.
Hobson feels Maggie’s absence. Alice and Vicky are unwilling or unable to pick up the slack, in the house or the shop. The night before the wedding, Hobson storms off to The Moonrakers and gets drunk. Stumbling home, he falls through a trapdoor into the basement of Beenstock & Co., where he is found next day sleeping it off. Freddy Beenstock rushes to tell Maggie … who gets an idea. When he awakes, Hobson is served with a writ for trespass and damage.
Maggie’s sisters reluctantly attend Willie and Maggie’s wedding at the insistence of their fiancés. The wedding dinner is held in the basement shop/home. Hobson arrives after dark to seek Maggie’s advice regarding his legal woes. She manoeuvres him into negotiating with Albert Prosser, representing Freddy Beenstock. Hobson reluctantly agrees to pay £500 to settle the matter out of court. Only then does he realise he has been “diddled”: the money will replace the marriage settlements Hobson refused to provide for Alice and Vicky.
Willie dreads his wedding night, but all turns out well, and he emerges a new man. The next morning, they make their first sale: a pair of bootlaces for one penny. Between Maggie’s business sense and Willie’s shoemaking genius, their business thrives. Within a year, they have not only paid off Mrs. Hepworth’s loan and 20% interest, they have also wooed away nearly all of Hobson’s high-class clientele. Under Maggie’s tutelage, the meek and illiterate Willie is transforming into a confident man of business.
On New Year’s Day, Hobson suffers hallucinations. Dr. MacFarlane diagnoses “chronic alcoholism.” Maggie summons Willie, Vicky and Alice to decide who will return home to look after their father. Both Vicky and Alice adamantly refuse to do so. With no alternative, Hobson tries to get Maggie and Willie back on the old terms, but Willie will not settle for anything less than a 50-50 partnership, his name first on the sign, and Hobson relegated to silent partner. Hobson grudgingly accepts.
Willie wants to change Maggie’s brass wedding ring for a gold one, but she insists on keeping it – to remind them of their humble beginnings.
- Directed by David Lean
- Written by Harold Brighouse (play), Wynyard Browne, David Lean and Norman Spencer
- Produced by David Lean and Alexander Korda
- Cinematography : Jack Hildyard
- Edited by Peter Taylor
- Music by Malcolm Arnold
- Production Company : London Films
- Distributed by British Lion Films and United Artists
- Release Date : 19 April 1954
- Charles Laughton as Henry Horatio Hobson
- John Mills as Will Mossop
- Brenda de Banzie as Maggie Hobson
- Daphne Anderson as Alice Hobson
- Prunella Scales as Vicky Hobson
- Richard Wattis as Albert Prosser
- Derek Blomfield as Freddy Beenstock
- Helen Haye as Mrs. Hepworth
- Joseph Tomelty as Jim Heeler
- Julien Mitchell as Sam Minns, the publican
- Gibb McLaughlin as Tudsbury
- Philip Stainton as Denton
- Dorothy Gordon as Ada Figgins
- Madge Brindley as Mrs Figgins
- John Laurie as Dr. MacFarlane
- Raymond Huntley as Nathaniel Beenstock
- Jack Howarth as Tubby Wadlow, another Hobson employee
- Herbert C. Walton as Printer
- Edie Martin as Old Lady Buying Bootlaces
Film Information :
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