Lease of Life

Lease of Life is a 1954 British film drama made by Ealing Studios and directed by Charles Frend.[1] The film was designed as a star-vehicle for Robert Donat, representing his return to the screen after an absence of over three years during which he had been battling the chronic asthma which plagued his life and career.[2] It was a prestige production which was generally respectfully, if not over-enthusiastically, received and gained Donat a nomination as 'Best British Actor' at the 1955 British Academy Film Awards.[3] In common with a number of other Ealing films of the era, Lease of Life focuses on a specific English milieu in this case a Yorkshire village and its nearby cathedral city and examines the nuances, quirks and foibles of its day-to-day life. The film is unique in the Ealing canon in having religion as its dominant theme.

Lease of Life
UK release poster
Directed byCharles Frend
Produced byJack Rix
Written byEric Ambler (from novel by Pat Jenkins)
StarringRobert Donat
Kay Walsh
Adrienne Corri
Denholm Elliott
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byPeter Tanner
Distributed byEaling Studios
Release date
  • 19 October 1954 (1954-10-19)
Running time
94 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom


William Thorne (Robert Donat) is the vicar of the village of Hinton St. John, living with wife Vera (Kay Walsh) and daughter Susan (Adrienne Corri), an exceptionally gifted pianist. Although the focus of the local community, the Thornes live a life of having to struggle and scrimp to make ends meet financially. Vera is a typical clergy wife, having to sublimate her own needs and desires to the exigencies of her husband's career, as a result tending to live life vicariously through her daughter, whose musical gifts she is determined must not be wasted.

On discovering that he has less than a year to live, Thorne reevaluates his own life and his parishioners and he finds himself happier than before, as he now feels able to speak completely honestly about his beliefs and does his best to demonstrate to his parishioners that religion is not a matter of unthinking adherence to a fixed set of rules, but of freedom to act according to one's conscience. However some of his pronouncements are willfully misunderstood and deemed provocative and controversial. There also remains the worry about how to secure the necessary funds to pay for Susan's tuition at a music college, and fate happens to put temptation in the way.


Location filming

Exterior sequences for Lease of Life were filmed in Beverley (East Yorkshire) and the nearby village of Lund (Hinton St. John) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.[4] The railway scenes in the film were filmed at Windsor & Eton Central station. The church scenes were filmed in Beverley Minster, East Yorkshire.


  1. "Lease of Life (1954)".
  2. "Mr. Donat has a new Lease of Life" Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1954. Retrieved 27 July 2010
  3. BAFTA Best British Actor nominations - 1954 Retrieved 27 July 2010
  4. "Yorkshire on Film - Lease of Life". Dalesman. 78 (1): 28. April 2016. ISSN 0011-5800.
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