Hobson’s Choice (1954)

This adaptation of Harold Brighouse’s 1915 stage comedy was the last studio-centered film David Lean made before tackling international epics like Summertime (1955) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Charles Laughton stars as a hard-drinking boot maker who treats his daughters as hired help and the help even worse. His eldest (Brenda de Banzie) rebels by running off to marry his top cobbler (John Mills), then sets up a business of her own in competition.
Lean shot the film with all the depth and detail he had brought to his adaptations of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), resulting in a richly visual film with strong, highly individual performances. Mills had already worked with the director on three others films, which made him a natural fill-in when Robert Donat, who had originally been cast, had to pull out because of health problems. At first Mills wasn’t sure he wanted to play such a passive character, as he had just established himself as a romantic lead, but he ended up calling this one of his favorite roles.

Dir. David Lean