Made in Britain film season: Interview with 'Hobson's Choice' actress Prunella Scales

David Lean's 1954 classic 'Hobson's Choice' is back in cinemas for one day only across the UK (Tues June 26th) as part of Studio Canal's MADE IN BRITAIN film season. Here Joe Utichi sits down with actress Prunella Scales to discuss its lasting effect.

Check out the link to more MADE IN BRITAIN info at the bottom of the page too, after the film clip!

What follows is an exclusive interview by Joe Utichi – www.joeutichi.com –  from May 2012 kindly offered to us via Studio Canal:


 

 

What are your memories of getting the part?

Of course HOBSON'S CHOICE was a wonderful play beforehand. I'm not sure how it came to me, because I grew up in Yorkshire, myself, so I had to learn the Lancashire accent, which is slightly different. I was very lately out of drama school, but I'd got an agent; I had a rather flashy part in the end-of-term show and got an agent off the back of it. They sent me along to see David Lean – and I'd read the play very carefully before – and he was wonderful. They gave me a costume and put me in front of a camera, and he got behind the camera and asked me questions in character. He said, “What's your name?” And I said, “Vicky, Vicky Hobson”, “Where do you live?”, “Manchester”, “Have you got a boyfriend?” And I sort of giggled and said, “Yes!” “What's his name?”, “Freddie. Freddie Beenstock.” He just knew how to make me comfortable. And that's how I got it. I can't remember if it was the first or second film I'd done, but there we were.

Of course the film starred Charles Laughton and John Mills, who were both big stars. What was it like to work with them?

Charles Laughton used to call me Scales! “Good old Scales,” he'd say! The story about it really is that originally it was going to be Robert Donat playing Willy Mossop, and my mother had been at the Liverpool Rep with him and she'd said he was absolutely immortal in the part. We had a week's rehearsal with him. When I met him he said, “Any relation to Catherine Scales?” I said, “Yes, I'm her daughter,” and he said, “Oh, that makes me feel very old!” We worked for a week on the set, rehearsing, but he had an asthma attack and eventually they wouldn't insure him. Apparently he never got over the disappointment; I was told he never had problems on an actual shoot. He was a wonderful, wonderful actor. But they got John Mills back from holiday and he learnt the Lancashire accent and had a great success in it.

Having grown up in the world of acting, was it intimidating working with such big names so early on in your career?

It was, but David Lean was wonderfully kind and very positive. They were all very encouraging. Daphne Anderson became a very dear friend. But it was a very lucky film to have so early on in one's working life.

Did you get a sense it was going to be such a hit?

I don't think so. It was one of my earliest jobs, anyway, but I don't think you can ever tell. One doesn't think about that. Of course, when you come to the end of a job all you're worried about is where the next job's coming from so that you can pay the rent. In fact, in those days I think I was still living in digs, and after that I shared a flat with three other girls until I got married. That early on your only concerns are wondering where the next job's coming from, and when it comes to learn your lines and do as much background work as possible. I was trained at the Old Vic Theatre School and we were very carefully trained about that. Shortly after HOBSON'S CHOICE I was in a play in the West End that went to the States, THE MATCHMAKER, and had a run on broadway. I had a wonderful workshop with the actress Uta Hagen and she was absolutely crucial. There are certain times in your life where you really feel like you learn something, and that was one.

How does it feel that it's still resonating with audiences?

I could never have imagined it! It's lovely that it is still so fondly remembered. I'm dying to see it again; I don't think I've got a copy of it. Though it's very alarm seeing one's performances even 20 or 30 years afterwards, and this was more than 50 years ago! One may think one's own performance was terrible!

 

 


This has been restored and re-released into UK cinemas for a limited engagement as part of Studio Canal's Made in Britain film season.

To find out more info and what other unique, forgotten British classics you can expect from the season check out our feature that contains a link to the showtimes and participating cinemas right HERE.

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