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Hobson's Choice - Criterion Collection
Hobson's Choice - Criterion Collection
Actors: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda De Banzie
Director: David Lean
Genres: Drama
NR     2009     1hr 48min

An unsung comic triumph from David Lean, Hobson's Choice stars the legendary Charles Laughton as the harrumphing Henry Hobson, the owner of a boot shop in late-Victorian Northern England. With his haughty, independent daug...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda De Banzie
Director: David Lean
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 02/17/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 48min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

David Lean, Charles Laughton, John Mills and, especially, Br
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 12/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For those who didn't know, and I was one of them, a Hobson's choice is a free choice, but where only one option is really available. At the end of Hobson's Choice, a fine, vulgar, poignant and very funny film directed by David Lean, this is what Henry Horatio Hobson faces. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed.

Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a prosperous shoe and boot merchant in the small town of Salford, England. The time is the 1880s. Hobson is a widower, a blusterer, a man accustomed to his comforts, his drink and his ease. He is, thanks to Laughton, larger than life, a man we can laugh at but not a man we'd probably want as a neighbor. He has three daughters. Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) is 30. She is, says her father, "a bit ripe" for marriage at her age, and he plans to keep it that way. Maggie runs the store, keeps the books, sees to dinner and keeps the home above the store neat. Henry Hobson, or course, doesn't pay her wages because she is, after all, his daughter. His two younger daughters both have suitors, and that's just fine with him until he realizes he must give them dowries if they are to marry. There'll be no dowries from Henry Hobson.

And now we watch Maggie come into her own. She is a plain woman with an iron will, a determination that recognizes no barriers, and a very shrewd mind. If she is ever to get away from her father, she will have to find a man to marry her. And now we meet Willie Mossop (John Mills), the shoe worker who makes the shoes in the dingy basement under the store. Willie is just about illiterate, shy to a fault, naive, slow, honest and with very dirty hands. He is quite satisfied to stay in the basement making shoes. In Willie Mossop, however, Maggie sees not just escape from her father, but a man who makes marvelous shoes, and a man she could make into a success with his own...their She knows she can do this, and she'll find a way to secure dowries from their father for her two sisters while she's at it. It should come as no surprise that Maggie accomplishes all she sets out to do; that Willie becomes William Mossop whose shoes sell, who is endearing and honest and who has a far better haircut after Maggie takes charge. While Henry Hobson roars about, deep in the drink, full of self-pity and bluster (and as entertaining as only Charles Laughton could make him), we settle back and enjoy the sight of Maggie using her head, with energy and determination, to get the better of her old rogue of a father. Maggie not only finds Willie, but love, too. By the end of the movie, we've come to know a contented and successful couple. William and Maggie have given Henry Hobson a choice he would be foolish to refuse.

This is a vastly entertaining and satisfying movie, thanks to Lean, Laughton, Mills and, especially De Banzie. Laughton came to loath De Banzie during the filming, and the reason is as plain as De Banzie's plain but attractive face. The movie ostensibly is a showcase for Laughton. He plays Hobson bolder than life, vulgar, squinting, staggering drunk, too smart for his own good...a man full of faults and foibles we can laugh at more readily than laugh with. He has two major bits playing the drunk or hungover Hobson and he's very good. There are two major sly and finagling scenes with him which are even better. But Brenda De Banzie, a marvelous actor, steals the show. Just as Maggie carries the day, it is De Banzie who carries the movie. Laughton must have realized this would happen during their first scenes together. De Banzie starts by giving us a no-nonsense woman who knows how to get things done. Her decision to make Willie Mossop her man, to marry him, slowly lets us see just a little vulnerability. She's not going to take "no" from Willie, she will make him a success, but we begin to realize without her saying a word that she wants Willie to not find her unattractive. Their wedding night and the morning after is played for smiles, but they're tender smiles. We realize that Maggie made a good choice in Willie and that Willie realizes just how lucky he was. Henry Hobson may continue to bluster, enjoy his drink, expect his comforts and make us appreciate Laughton's bits of over-acting, but it is Maggie and William we feel good about. Together, they're going to be running things...and successfully, too.

The movie was released long ago on VHS tape and can still be tracked down. Criterion's DVD release, due in a couple of months, will undoubtedly give the movie the attention it deserves. I plan to buy it as soon as it's out and will add here my opinion of the extras. This is one of David Lean's finest films. Hopefully, the Criterion release also will bring more attention to what a fine actor Brenda De Banzie was."
I've been waiting for this for years
dr_shred | Tempe, AZ | 01/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a great comedy from the golden age of British film in the '50s
by one of the all time great directors, dealing with the issue of
sexism and the British class system with a marvelous performance by
Charles Laughton as the self-satisfied, pompous boot shop owner (boots
are what they call shoes in England). If you liked The Man In A White
Suit, Kind Hearts And Coronets, et al, you'll love this film.

With the release of this film and John Schlesinger's Far From The
Madding Crowd on DVD I'm two films closer to having all my wishes
fulfilled. I hope the transfer is O.K., but I'll buy it anyway. Now
if we could just get The Jokers with Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford,
and all the other great overlooked British films on DVD.
One of my all time favotites...
Lili | Birmingham, AL | 12/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I cannot even begin to descibe the tenderness, humor, and subtle life lessons in this movie. It cannot help but be entertaining and uplifting in the truest sense. I have this on is so worn from watching...I have loaned it to many friends who have said that in the first few minutes they are wondering why I love it so much, and then they are gradually brought to the point where they are enchanted with the sweet lessons of self-determination, true love, and the beautiful transformation of Willie as Maggie sees in him what even he cannot see. A man well treated by a woman does so much for his confidence....And as for maggie...How lovely to see the message that we make our own happiness in life.
There are so many favorite moments, but i agree with the earlier review that Maggie(DeBanzie) steals the show. Nearly every scene with her in it contains my favorite moments A random bit...but one of my favorite moments is right at the wedding supper...True love is seeing the good in our spouse and helping them believe it. I also really like the snip of a scene earlier in the film when Willie realizes that he will never be going back to his old life and his sheer disbelief and joy.
This is a sure winner with the quality of Miracle on 34th street, a movie that will be watched over and over. Treat yourself and buy on for your mother!"
Surpirised how I fell in love with this movie.
S. Holland | 01/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I really enjoy David Lean films, and I watched this not knowing beforehand what it was about.

I know the phrase "Hobson's choice" is Cockney Rhymming Slang for "voice"; and the phrase means to be given only one choice; the choice to accept what is offered or nothing at all.

The story is about a retailer named Hobson who is a widower with 3 adult daughters. One day he decides the two younger daughers are too silly and expensive to have around and so he becomes determinded to marry them off.

The eldest daughter is very good at housekeeping and tending the family boot shop and so he wants her to stay; therefore he tells her she is an old spinster past the age to marry. Well this goads her into taking fate into her own hands.

We start to see a shift in the meaning of the title; perhaps its referring just as much or moreso for the eldest daughter as for her father. I also like the moral lesson of equality offered for couples who are already married or considering marriage.

The story kept me guessing until the very end, and I found myself falling in love with the story. Its very well told and very funny but under the humor is this shining truth that persists and inspires me forward.

I heartily recommend this film to everyone. The message of story is certainly far ahead of its time, and still very relevant now."