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Hobson's Choice

(1954 b 107')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Based on the play by Harold Brighouse and directed by David Lean, an alcoholic depends on his three daughters and falls apart when they get married and become successful on their own.

         Intoxicated Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Lawton) is let in by his daughter Maggie Hobson (Brenda da Banzie) to his London shoe store and goes upstairs to his home. The next morning his daughter Alice Hobson (Daphne Anderson) helps him find a handkerchief. He complains that his daughter Vicki Hobson (Prunella Scales) wears a bustle. He tells his daughters they will not rule him. He says he will find husbands for Alice and Vicki, but he tells Maggie she is too old for one. Mrs. Hepworth (Helen Hayes) comes in and complains about her boots. Sam Minns (Julien Mitchell) denies he made them, but Willie Mossop (John Mills) admits he made them. She says they are the best and gives him her card.

         Henry goes to a pub to drink, and he says he won’t let Maggie marry. Henry wants a temperance man, but he refuses to pay a settlement.

         At home Alice says no one will marry them without a settlement, but Maggie has ideas. Henry goes out, and Maggie asks Willie how he learned to make boots so well. Willie does not want to leave, and Maggie says she wants him to be her man. She says he is her best chance. He says he cannot wed her, but she says they will wed. They go out on Sunday, and Willie says he has another woman, Ada Figgins (Dorothy Gordon). They go to her, and Maggie tells Ada that she is going to marry Willie. Ada’s mother threatens Willie, and Maggie leaves with him. She asks Willie to kiss her, but he does not.

         Maggie tells her sisters and her father that she is going to marry Willie. She has worked for free for nearly twenty years but now demands that Henry pay her 15 shillings a week. Henry tells Willie that he will beat the love out of him. When Henry hits him with his belt, Willie kisses Maggie and leaves with her. She takes Willie to Mrs. Hepworth and asks her for £100 for his own shop. They rent an old place and fix it up.

         At the pub Henry tells how he sent them out, but they find out about the new business. Maggie and Willie move their things. She sends Willie out with leaflets and kisses him. He sees his name on the sign.

         Maggie tells Alice she is inviting her family to her wedding. Tudsbury asks Alice for orders. Henry comes in and tells Tudsbury to obey Alice. Henry complains he is not getting his usual dinner, and he goes out in a huff. Henry gets drunk with his friends and says he is a big fish in a little pond. He sees double and staggers out into the street and falls down a chute.

         Freddy Beanstock (Derek Blomfield) tells Alice that Henry is asleep in his cellar. He and Alice go to Maggie’s wedding with Albert Prosser (Richard Wattis) and Vicki. Willie tells Maggie she is growing on him, and he is resigned. Henry wakes up on a sack of grain and climbs out. He is sued for trespass and damage.

         Willie welcomes the two couples to their house at dinner. Maggie and Willie receive her father, who says he is in trouble. She gives him wedding cake. Henry shows them the legal  paper. Willie says he may no longer be church warden. Maggie calls in the lawyer Prosser and Beanstock to settle it. Prosser asks Henry for £1,000, but Maggie says he will pay £500. Maggie says it is not going out of the family and calls in Alice and Vicki. She says they are all being married. Henry realizes he is giving them settlements of £250 each. Henry says he is a free man and goes out. The four leave Maggie and Willie alone. Maggie has him copy “There is always room at the top,” and she goes to bed. Willie undresses slowly and puts on a nightshirt. Maggie says she is ready, and he goes in the bedroom. In the morning Willie kisses her, and their first customer comes in. He starts working.

         On New Year’s Eve Willie comes in and tell Maggie he paid off Mrs. Hepworth with interest. In bed Henry imagines insects attacking him. He breaks a pitcher and calls for a doctor, who tells him it is chronic alcoholism. Dr. McFarlane (John Laurie) advises him to get a wife and tells him to abstain from drinking. Maggie tells her father that he is not to be trusted, and she removes his bottles. Willie comes in and looks over the stock. Vicki says she cannot take care of their father because she is expecting. Willie says his business is busy. Henry sends away Alice and Vicki. Henry invites Maggie and Willie to come back to his house and shop. Willie says they have taken Henry’s trade. Willie offers Henry a partnership with no part in running it. Willie insists on the name Mossup & Hobson. Maggie is proud of the man she made. Willie wants to replace her brass ring, but she declines. Henry says he is going to ask Prosser to draw up a deed of partnership.

         This comedy depicts the rising power of women in business as well as in family relations while a complacent man succumbs to alcohol addiction. A strong woman is able to empower her husband so that he develops his abilities in business.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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