Lease of Life

Last updated

Lease of Life
Leaseoflifeposter.jpg
UK release poster
Directed by Charles Frend
Written by Eric Ambler
Frank Baker
Patrick Jenkins
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring Robert Donat
Kay Walsh
Adrienne Corri
Denholm Elliott
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Peter Tanner
Music by Alan Rawsthorne
Production
company
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 19 October 1954 (1954-10-19)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

Lease of Life is a 1954 British drama film made by Ealing Studios and directed by Charles Frend. [1] The film was designed as a star-vehicle for Robert Donat, representing his return to the screen after an absence of over three years during which he had been battling the chronic asthma which plagued his life and career. [2] It was a prestige production which was generally respectfully, if not over-enthusiastically, received and gained Donat a nomination as 'Best British Actor' at the 1955 British Academy Film Awards. [3] In common with a number of other Ealing films of the era, Lease of Life focuses on a specific English milieu in this case a Yorkshire village and its nearby cathedral city and examines the nuances, quirks and foibles of its day-to-day life. The film is unique in the Ealing canon in having religion as its dominant theme.

Contents

It bears several parallels to the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru ("to live") but with a much lighter tone.

Plot

Rev William Thorne (Robert Donat) is the vicar of the village of Hinton St. John, living with his wife Vera (Kay Walsh) and his daughter Susan (Adrienne Corri) (an exceptionally gifted teenage pianist). Susan gets guidance in her potential concert potential from Martin Blake (Denholm Elliott). However Rev and Mrs Thorne cannot afford to pay for her accommodation in London even if she wins a scholarship.

Although the church is the focus of the local community, the Thornes live a frugal life of having to struggle and scrimp to make ends meet financially. Vera is a typical clergy wife, having to sublimate her own needs and desires to the exigencies of her husband's position, as a result tending to live life vicariously through her daughter, whose musical gifts she is determined must not be wasted.

A local elderly farmer Mr Sproatly asks him to visit his sick bed. He says he wishes to ensure that his son rather than his wife gets his money when he dies. He is about to entrust Rev Thorne with the cash when the wife enters and the plan is abandoned, The farmer's son is still listed as "missing" after the war and he hopes he will rematerialise.

While working hard on a sermon he has been asked to present for a boys school, he collapses while reaching up for a book in his library.

On discovering from his doctor that he has less than a year to live, he sympathises with the doctor having to give such news. He goes to Gilchester Cathedral to contemplate, then takes the bus back to his village. The organ music from the cathedral rings in his head. On getting off the bus two women from the church committee discuss the drunkenness of the sexton (gravedigger) Mr Spooner and the vicar says he will deal with him appropriately: he tells him to suck a mint if he sees the women coming.

He returns to the farmer and takes a leather case containing a will and large amount of cash. The wife challenges him.

Thorne reevaluates his own life and that of his parishioners, and he finds himself happier than before. He adopts a "live and let live" attitude to the minor indiscretions of his parishioners, and turns a blind eye to the pious village gossip.

Unaware that the sermon to the boys school is a test to see if he is fit to act as School Chaplain, he rips up his prepared speech in front of the boys and gives an ad lib sermon regarding the benefits of not obeying rules and enjoying life. The boys love the sermon, but the Dean, headmaster and assembled parents see it as inciting rebellion. A reporter prints the story and a wider story of inciting unrest spreads. The congregation of his own church swells... but he feels this is "a herd not a flock", people wishing sensationalism.

He now feels able to speak completely honestly about his beliefs and does his best to demonstrate to his parishioners that religion is not a matter of unthinking adherence to a fixed set of rules, but of freedom to act according to one's conscience. However some of his pronouncements are willfully misunderstood and deemed provocative and controversial. There also remains the worry about how to secure the necessary funds to pay for Susan's tuition at a music college, and fate happens to put temptation in the way.

When Mr Sproatly dies Rev Thorne at last checks the bag of money and it is £100 short - exactly the amount Mrs Thorne gave to Susan claiming she had sold her jewels. He confronts his wife and she confesses the crime saying it as just borrowing it. Mrs Sproatly challenges him about the money in the churchyard after her husband's funeral and he is stressed. Back in the church he collapses. The reporter who had been covering the story tells Mrs Thorne that the editor has agreed to pay £100 for Thorne's articles: the problem is solved.

Thorne's spirit is revived and he heads to preach his evening service, stopping to discuss the merits of acting for the living rather than the dead with the gravedigger.

Cast

Location filming

Exterior sequences for Lease of Life were filmed in Beverley (East Yorkshire) and the nearby village of Lund (Hinton St. John) in the East Riding of Yorkshire. [4] The railway scenes in the film were filmed at Windsor & Eton Central station. The church scenes were filmed in Beverley Minster, East Yorkshire.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Donat</span> English actor

Friedrich Robert Donat was an English actor. He is best remembered for his roles in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), winning for the latter the Academy Award for Best Actor.

<i>Room at the Top</i> (1959 film) 1959 film by Jack Clayton

Room at the Top is a 1959 British film based on the 1957 novel of the same name by John Braine. It was adapted by Neil Paterson, directed by Jack Clayton, and produced by John and James Woolf. The film stars Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret, Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit, Donald Houston, and Hermione Baddeley.

<i>Barchester Towers</i>

Barchester Towers is a novel by English author Anthony Trollope published by Longmans in 1857. It is the second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, preceded by The Warden and followed by Doctor Thorne. Among other things it satirises the antipathy in the Church of England between High Church and Evangelical adherents. Trollope began writing this book in 1855. He wrote constantly and made himself a writing-desk so he could continue writing while travelling by train. "Pray know that when a man begins writing a book he never gives over", he wrote in a letter during this period. "The evil with which he is beset is as inveterate as drinking – as exciting as gambling".

Denholm Elliott English actor

Denholm Mitchell Elliott, was an English actor, with more than 125 film and television credits. His well-known roles include the abortionist in Alfie (1966), Marcus Brody in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Coleman in Trading Places (1983), and Mr Emerson in A Room with a View (1985).

<i>Framley Parsonage</i>

Framley Parsonage is a novel by English author Anthony Trollope. It was first published in serial form in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860, then in book form in April 1861. It is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, preceded by Doctor Thorne and followed by The Small House at Allington.

James Smith Bush was an American attorney, Episcopal priest, religious writer, and an ancestor of the Bush political family. He was the father of business magnate Samuel Prescott Bush, grandfather of former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, great-grandfather of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush and great-great-grandfather of former Texas Governor and President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

<i>Hotel du Lac</i> 1984 novel by English writer Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac is a 1984 Booker Prize-winning novel by English writer Anita Brookner. It centres on Edith Hope, a romance novelist who is staying in a hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva. There she meets other English visitors, including Mrs Pusey, Mrs Pusey's daughter Jennifer, and an attractive middle-aged man, Mr Neville.

<i>Perfect Strangers</i> (1945 film) 1945 British drama film

Perfect Strangers, is a 1945 British drama film made by London Films. It stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a married couple whose relationship is shaken by their service in the Second World War. The supporting cast includes Glynis Johns, Ann Todd and Roland Culver. It was produced and directed by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier based on a story by Clemence Dane. Dane won the Academy Award for Best Story. The music score was by Clifton Parker and the cinematography by Georges Périnal.

<i>The North Avenue Irregulars</i> 1979 film by Bruce Bilson

The North Avenue Irregulars is a 1979 American comedy crime film produced by Walt Disney Productions, distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Company, and starring Edward Herrmann, Barbara Harris, Karen Valentine and Susan Clark. Don Tait wrote the screenplay, which was loosely based on the Rev. Albert Fay Hill's memoir of fighting the mob in New Rochelle, New York in the 1960s. The film was released as Hill's Angels in the United Kingdom.

"Dracula" is a video-taped television play adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, part of the series Mystery and Imagination. Denholm Elliott played Count Dracula with Susan George as Lucy Weston.

Lund, East Riding of Yorkshire Village and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England

Lund is a village and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is situated approximately 6 miles (10 km) north-west of Beverley town centre, 7 miles (11 km) south-west of Driffield town centre, and to the east of the B1248 road.

<i>The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby</i> (1947 film) 1947 British film

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a 1947 British drama film directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and starring Cedric Hardwicke. The screenplay by John Dighton is based on the Charles Dickens novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839). This first sound screen adaptation of the book followed silent films released in 1903 and 1912.

Jonathan Leavitt (minister)

Rev. Jonathan Leavitt (1731–1802) was an early New England Congregational minister, born in Connecticut, and subsequently the pastor of churches in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, both of which dismissed him from his posts. Several of Rev. Leavitt's descendants became among the most noted abolitionists of their day, even though he himself was dismissed from one pastorate for allegedly abusing his runaway slave, and from another for his Loyalist sentiments.

<i>Its a Big Country</i> 1951 film

It's a Big Country: An American Anthology is a 1951 anthology film consisting of eight segments directed by seven directors: Clarence Brown, Don Hartman, John Sturges, Richard Thorpe, Charles Vidor, Don Weis, and William A. Wellman.

Church of St Michael and All Angels, Beckwithshaw Church in North Yorkshire, England

The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Beckwithshaw, North Yorkshire, England, also known as Beckwithshaw Church, is an Anglican church built and furnished between 1886 and 1887 by William Swinden Barber in the Gothic Revival style as part of the Arts and Crafts movement. The stained glass windows in the same style were added in 1892. The church is listed as a Grade II historic structure; it is a pristine and unchanged example of an Arts and Crafts church retaining all its original furnishings, apart from one missing statue. However, in 2018 the church officers gained planning permission for changes which included removing all of the original pews. The first vicar of this church, from 1887 to 1894, was Charles Farrar Forster.

Charles Farrar Forster

Charles Farrar Forster was curate of the parish of Lockwood near Huddersfield, vicar of St Andrew's Church in Huddersfield, and the first vicar of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Beckwithshaw.

Church of St Thomas, Thurstonland Church in West Yorkshire, England

The Church of St Thomas, Thurstonland, West Yorkshire, England, is an Anglican church. It is an Arts and Crafts building in Gothic Revival style, designed by James Mallinson and William Swinden Barber, and completed in 1870. The building was funded by William Legge, 5th Earl of Dartmouth, and it was consecrated by Robert Bickersteth, Bishop of Ripon. The total height of the tower and spire is 109 feet (33 m), and the nave contains an arch-braced hammerbeam roof.

C. W. Evan

Cadwallader William Evan, generally referred to as Rev. C. W. Evan, was a Congregationalist minister in colonial South Australia, the first to serve at the Stow Memorial Church, Flinders Street, Adelaide.

James Harington Evans

James Harington Evans (1785-1849) was ordained as a Church of England clergyman in 1810. During his early years as a curate he suffered a crisis following the death of his first child. One of his parishioners suggested he study a volume of sermons by the Rev John Hill (1711–46). As he read his well-being improved and he started to question some of the doctrinal beliefs in the Church of England. He shared these ideas with his congregation, causing a split in the community and was asked by his rector to leave. Within a few years he became a Baptist minister and the pastor of John Street Chapel in Bloomsbury, where he remained for thirty years. After his death it was said of him that, he was to be admired in almost everything except his Nonconformity.

George Saxby Penfold was a Church of England clergyman, Rector of several parishes and active as a visiting preacher. In 1825 the University of Oxford awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. A pluralist, for much of his life Penfold held the living of more than one benefice at once.

References

  1. "Lease of Life (1954)".
  2. "Mr. Donat has a new Lease of Life" Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1954. Retrieved 27 July 2010
  3. BAFTA Best British Actor nominations - 1954 Retrieved 27 July 2010
  4. "Yorkshire on Film - Lease of Life". Dalesman. 78 (1): 28. April 2016. ISSN   0011-5800.