Review

  • ... and Henry Hobson does not know his. The title I assume is taken from a phrase to denote a choice where you don't have any real choices. But then if you want to make choices in your life maybe you shouldn't spend the entirety of it inebriated.

    Henry Hobson ( Charles Laughton) is the owner of a late 19th century boot shop in England. He spends all of his time at the pub drinking, then sleeping , then getting up the next day and doing the same all over again. He always belittles his oldest daughter Maggie, calling her an old maid, in spite of the fact that he openly admits he depends on her for everything. Including the running of his shop which he completely neglects. He announces one day that he is going to marry off his two younger daughters to husbands of his choosing, but not Maggie, because she is too old. The daughters are upset because they have prospects of their own choosing, plus their father refuses to pay a dowry, which was the custom of the day.

    But Hobson should not have alienated his oldest daughter, because Maggie has plans of her own. She forwardly proposes to mousy boot maker William Mossop (John Mills) seemingly out of the blue. She is quite honest with him as to how she really looks at this - at least initially - as a business deal because with her business acumen and his very good bootmaking skills they could set up their own shop and do quite well.

    It is great fun to see how romance unfolds between these two. And Mills' Mossop transforms from a very timid man with a cereal bowl haircut and ill fitting suits who cannot even read into a confident attractive man, with the help of Maggie. Hobson, who thinks he is quite clever because he runs Maggie and Mossop out of his shop when they reveal their plans, grows to regret that decision as everything falls apart for him. Not that he would ever admit that.

    It's all quite cleverly done, and I think it is the best thing David Lean ever did, even if most people have never even heard of it. I never cared that much for his epics for they just seem to drag on too long, even the older ones. This much more intimate film is far more compelling. The one thing that does not ring true is saying that Maggie is 30. I thought she looked much older than that, and in fact the actress who played her was 45 at the time.

    I guess the biggest compliment I could pay it was that my husband liked it. He is normally somebody who likes 21st century horror and fantasy, but to my surprise he enthusiastically stuck with this to the end.