Lease of Life with Robert Donat 1954

Again, this film was on the Talking Pictures channel over Christmas – it is a film I knew but have not seen for years.

Lease of Life is a 1954 British film drama made by Ealing Studios. It is the type of film I really like – lovely colour and locations, a story where nothing much happens and the story just fades away at the end and yet, it is compelling viewing seeing the interaction of  the characters, the style of the period and the languid way of life.

It is  one of Ealing’s 13 colour films  and is photographed by Douglas Slocombe (one of British cinema’s finest cinematographers). It is  Robert Donat’s only Ealing appearance and it’s filmed in the East Riding of Yorkshire, an area that rarely appears in British films.

In fact Below is an actual shot from the Film of Beverley in East Yorkshire where Robert Donat preaches :-

Lease of Life 1954

The village of Lund had a starring role in the film Lease of Life, made in 1954. The village was chosen by Director Charles Frend for the rural sequences in the film and Lund became the fictional village of Hinton St John. The cast included Robert Donat, Adrienne Corri, Kay Walsh and Reginald Beckworth.  “Lease of Life created quite a stir in the village and it is said that some women washed their doorsteps several times a day so that they could have an excuse to watch the film stars at work”. (Yorkshire Times July 11, 1969, Lund -a quiet village full of contrasts).
Villagers were not allowed to pass through the centre of the village during filming and farm workers had to return to work via the B1248; however Mr Teale, the blacksmith, continued to work even when action was taking place in a two walled ‘cottage’  which was constructed on the green outside his forge.
Between ‘takes’ the stars passed the time at the Wellington Inn – pictured above -where they were entertained by the landlord Cyril Bradley and his wife Mary.

Lease of Life 1954 - with Standard Vanguard

Another scene above – Robert Donat walks past a Standard Vanguard of the era – past the Wellington Inn in Lund

The location filming is one of the film’s strengths, selling the small village community of Halton (shot in Lund, East Yorkshire) and the larger cathedral town of Gilchester (filmed in Beverley, East Yorkshire).  Both locations look strikingly good in Eastman Colour.


Release Date   19 October 1954 (1954-10-19)

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.[

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.



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