Hobson's Choice (1954 film)

Hobson's Choice is a 1954 British romantic comedy film directed by David Lean.[2][3] It is based on the play of the same name by Harold Brighouse. It stars Charles Laughton in the role of Victorian bootmaker Henry Hobson, Brenda De Banzie as his eldest daughter and John Mills as a timid employee. The film also features Prunella Scales in one of her first cinema roles as Vicky.

Hobson's Choice
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Lean
Produced byDavid Lean
Alexander Korda
Written byHarold Brighouse (play)
Wynyard Browne
David Lean
Norman Spencer
StarringCharles Laughton
Brenda De Banzie
John Mills
Daphne Anderson
Prunella Scales
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Edited byPeter Taylor
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
London Films
United Artists
Release date
  • 19 April 1954 (1954-04-19)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£206,579[1]

Hobson's Choice won the British Academy Film Award for Best British Film 1954.


Willie Mossop (John Mills) is a gifted but unappreciated bootmaker employed by the tyrannical Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Laughton) in his moderately upmarket shop in 1880s Salford in Lancashire. Hard-drinking widower Hobson has three daughters. Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) and her younger sisters Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales) have worked in their father's establishment without wages and are eager to be married and free of the shop. Alice has been seeing Albert Prosser (Richard Wattis), a young up-and-coming solicitor, while Vicky prefers Freddy Beenstock (Derek Blomfield), the son of a respectable corn merchant. Hobson does not object to losing Alice and Vicky, but Maggie is far too useful to part with. To his friends, he mocks the plain, severe Maggie as a spinster "a bit on the ripe side" at 30 years of age.

Her pride injured, Maggie bullies the browbeaten, unambitious Willie into an engagement. When Hobson objects to her choice of his own lowly employee as husband and refuses to start paying her, Maggie announces that she and Willie will set up in a shop of their own. For capital, they turn to a satisfied customer for a loan. With money in hand, they are married, and between Maggie's business sense and Willie's shoemaking genius, the enterprise is successful. Within a year, they have not only paid off their business loan, but have also taken away nearly all of Hobson's clientele. Under Maggie's tutelage, the formerly meek and illiterate Willie has become an educated, self-confident man of business, and he and Maggie have fallen deeply in love.

When Hobson's drinking finally catches up with him, Dr. MacFarlane (John Laurie) sends for Maggie. At her urging, Mossop offers to go into partnership with Hobson, on condition that Hobson be only a silent partner. After a tussle over the new name of the business, Hobson agrees.



Robert Donat was originally cast in the role of Will Mossop but had to pull out due to his asthma.[4] The outdoor location scenes were filmed around the Salford area with Peel Park serving as the courting place for Maggie Hobson and William Mossop.[5]


Malcolm Arnold took the comical main theme for the film from his opera The Dancing Master. Throughout the film, it is linked to Hobson so often that he even whistles it at one point. Arnold wrote the score for a small pit orchestra of 22 players, and he enlisted the help of a Belgian cafe owner to play the musical saw for one pivotal scene. After a night of drinking at The Moonraker, Hobson is seeing double, and he fixates on the reflection of the moon in the puddles outside the pub. Arnold deploys the musical saw to represent the willowy allure of the moon, as the clumsy Hobson stomps from puddle to puddle, chasing its reflection.[6]


Box Office

The film was one of the most popular at the British box office in 1954.[7]


In his New York Times review, Bosley Crowther called Hobson's Choice "a delightful and rewarding British film", and praised the performances of the three leads and its producer/director.[8] TV Guide gave the film four stars, characterising it as "a fully developed comedy of human foibles and follies with Laughton rendering a masterful, sly performance, beautifully supported by de Banzie and Mills."[9] In the opinion of Daniel Etherington of Channel 4, the "character interactions between the couple and the old bugger of a dad are fascinating, funny and moving."[10] His verdict is, "Displays the Lean mark of quality and sterling work from its leads. A gem."[10]


The film won the Golden Bear at the 4th Berlin International Film Festival in 1954[11] and British Film Academy Award Best British Film 1954.[12]

Home media

Hobson's Choice is available on VHS (Warner Home Video in the UK), DVD (as part of The Criterion Collection), Blu-ray, and LaserDisc.


  1. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p503
  2. Variety film review; 3 March 1954, page 6.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; 12 June 1954, page 94.
  4. "illness May Silence Donat's Golden Voice". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 2 August 1953. p. 14. Retrieved 7 July 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  5. Anon. "Filming of Hobson's Choice in Peel Park". Salford Archive. University of Salford. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  6. Jackson, Paul R.W. The life and music of Sir Malcolm Arnold: the brilliant and the dark, pp. 45–46.
  7. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 259.
  8. Bosley Crowther (15 June 1954). "Hobson's Choice (1953)". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  9. "Hobson's Choice". TV Guide. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  10. Daniel Etherington. "Hobson's Choice Review". Channel4. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  11. "4th Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  12. David Lean at Hollywood.com


  • The Great British Films, pp 162–164, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
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