Widower Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a successful bootmaker and a tyrannical father of three daughters who all want to leave him by getting married, but he refuses because marriage tra... Read allWidower Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a successful bootmaker and a tyrannical father of three daughters who all want to leave him by getting married, but he refuses because marriage traditions require him to pay out settlements.Widower Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a successful bootmaker and a tyrannical father of three daughters who all want to leave him by getting married, but he refuses because marriage traditions require him to pay out settlements.
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.
- Apr 23, 2008