Laughton eats cake

… while hungover. In HOBSON’S CHOICE.

Even funnier than him smoking his first cigarette in THIS LAND IS MINE. You can see why David Lean liked him — even though the grumpy director — “Actors can be rather a bore” — and the tricky actor would seem like a match made in hell, on paper. Lean even wanted to cast Laughton in the Guinness part in KWAI, imagining that with a bit of a diet Laughton could play a starving POW. Eventually he realised that if Laughton could will himself to look thin for a part, he would have already done so for real life.

Laughton’s drunk scene — chasing reflections of the moon in the puddles of a cobbled street — is rightly celebrated, and hits some moments of weirdness comparable to THE SMALL BACK ROOM’s giant whisky bottle. Especially when Laughton falls down a hatch in the street, an effect achieved with rear projection, I think, and Laughton moving in extreme slomo, with the length of the drop expressionistically exaggerated.

And then there’s the “liver attack” — a would-be comic version of the DTs that Fiona declared to be the most terrifying scene Lean ever filmed. Number one in a crowded field, if you think about it.

I actually put the film on to convince Fiona of John Mills’ brilliance as an actor, a mission which was successful, but here I am talking about Laughton of course because it’s easier to do. Follow-up post?

5 Responses to “Laughton eats cake”

  1. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    Hobson’s Choice is a delight of a film. It’s one of Lean’s best but it’s also one of his lightest and most elegant and most emotional films.

    Also of course one of Laughton’s greatest performances (alongside Ruggles, This Land is Mine!, Advise and Consent). Brenda de Banzie and John Mills are wonderful where you have this solidarity between a daughter chafing under her authoritarian father and his loyal employee, and yet despite being unquestionably the bad guy, you sort of can’t help but liking Laughton’s character.

    And Laughton being a tyrannical fusspot who treats people around him shabbily but commands respect is a good double for Lean’s own on-set tyranny.

  2. Always one of my favorite romcoms, alongside “The Apartment”, “A New Leaf” and “The Lady Eve”. Interesting that despite Laughton’s star billing much of the movie belongs to de Banzie, and the final scene is Mills, looking around the shop and marveling at his transformation before trotting after Laughton and de Banzie.

    Also nice that Hobson is neither punished nor reformed, or even chastened. He and his business are saved, first over his protests and then with him spinning it as his will conquering theirs.

    De Banzie also stars in “Too Many Crooks”, this time as a wife outfoxing caddish hubby Terry-Thomas. If she ever played a mother defeating unpleasant children you’d have a sort of trilogy. And of course Prunella Scales went from ingenue to Sybil Fawlty.

  3. Lean gave Scales advice on the film career she was supposed to have, which she was never able to put into action as she didn’t get the parts. A real loss — but television’s eventual gain. You can see she’s good, here, but you couldn’t guess how great she’d become.

    DeBanzie plays an awful mother failing to defeat her virtuous child in Flame in the Streets, which pairs her with Mills again. I ought to watch more of her films — Too Many Crooks goes on the list.

    Fascinating how Laughton makes a purely unpleasant character — drunkard and bully — into someone you can’t totally dislike, just by being enjoyable to watch/ Fiona couldn’t wait to see how he’d react to each of BDB’s power-plays, and he never disappointed.

  4. La Faustin Says:

    Followup post PLEASE!

  5. Here goes…

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