April 20, 1954 [Hobson's Choice]
It's no wonder that Hobson's Choice still has me grinning--well, more of a half-smile, now, the film's memory of Merrie Olde already passing into my own memory, layered like comfortable blankets. It's David Lean again, whose versions of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations have already made their own contributions to my incipient Anglophilism, sickly sweet and a little too precious for my own good--but still:
Charles Laughton's overbearing Hobson cannot be hated; in the end he's just too darned cute, even his delirium tremens just a guy in a soft-focus rat costume, and his obnoxiousness a simple variation on the Old Sport at the pub, staggering out at closing-time, laughs all around.
And the daughter, the "spinster" Maggie, taking over and setting everything to right, as surefooted as a Dickens plot, no loose ends allowed.
And most of all John Mills as Willie Mossop, open-mouthed at his Maggie's machinations, tousled by the wind of Laughton's bluster--but drawing himself up, his collar at last the stiffest and cleanest in the room.
--But maybe it's there, in Mossop's victory, that the movie edges closer to a real England, the bootmaker ascendant, while the Man of Mercantile Means plays the fool, with a woman at the helm, reconfiguring the classes, the rabbit in his hole Mossop once was now rising from the basement workroom to stride among the clientele, owning the means of both production and distribution.
--I won't take this any further. Actual class restructuring? An England, it is implied, with troubles that need correction? This is too much, the sudden social conscience, however veiled. I refuse to follow this line--instead, oh green and pleasant land, somewhere off in the distance I spy the White Cliffs of Dover, strangely enough always bathed in sunlight, and hear the carriages clip-clop on the cobblestones, the game afoot with maybe a bit of fog at the periphery to soften sharp edges.