The Hireling

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The Hireling
The Hireling film poster.jpg
original film poster
Directed by Alan Bridges
Produced by Ben Arbeid
Written by Wolf Mankowitz
Starring Robert Shaw
Sarah Miles
Music by Marc Wilkinson
Cinematography Michael Reed
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) 10 June 1973 (New York City)
Running time 95 min.
Country United Kingdom

The Hireling is a 1973 British drama film directed by Alan Bridges, based on a 1957 novel by LP Hartley, which starred Robert Shaw and Sarah Miles. It tells the story of a chauffeur who falls in love with an aristocratic woman.

It shared the Grand Prix with Scarecrow at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.[1][2]



Set in and around Bath, Somerset, immediately after the First World War, the story opens at an expensive mental clinic in the country where the young and recently widowed Lady Franklin is being discharged. The owner of a smart hire car, former sergeant-major Ledbetter, chauffeurs her to her unsympathetic mother in Bath. Hired to take her on outings, he becomes the only person she can talk to as she slowly lifts out of deep depression.

When he takes her to a boxing night at a boys club that he helps to run, she meets another committee member, the young former officer Cantrip. Like Ledbetter he is struggling to return to normality, in his case politics, after his traumatic experiences in the war. Cantrip starts wooing the wealthy Lady Franklin while still sleeping with his lover Connie, who is probably a war widow.

Ledbetter’s mental equilibrium becomes progressively more fragile. His business is failing, his casual relationship with the waitress Doreen brings no joy, his now deep affection for Lady Franklin is no longer returned and his rage against his more successful rival is intensified by Cantrip’s concealed involvement with Connie.

When he finally confronts Cantrip and Lady Franklin together, they tell him that he has no place in their lives because they have become engaged. Leaping into his Rolls-Royce car and swigging frequently from a bottle of alcohol, he drives away in a suicidal rage.


Loneliness is the first main theme of the film and with it the profound effects on mental balance of bereavement and post-combat stress. All three principals are desperately lonely and insecure. While Lady Franklin had isolation and medical treatment at the clinic, both Ledbetter and Cantrip are fighting the traumas of the war on their own. Neither man finds the woman he occasionally sleeps with satisfactory. As Cantrip and Lady Franklin discover a sort of love together, Ledbetter’s increasingly unstable life unravels.

The second main theme is class and money. Lady Franklin, widow of a baronet, has a large country house and a comfortable income. Cantrip’s life is considerably more precarious but by marrying a rich and socially superior woman he will enter the landed gentry. Ledbetter, a working class man with no capital who rose as far as he was likely to get in the army, in civilian life ranks little above a cab driver.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Hireling". Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  2. ^ "U.S. Film Shares Cannes Prize". Los Angeles Times. 1973-05-26. p. B9. "The Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix Friday was awarded jointly to the American film "Scarecrow" by Jerry Schatzberg and the British entry "The Hireling" by Alan Bridges." 

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