Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
In prison awaiting execution the next morning Louis, the 10th Duke of Chalfont, sets down on paper the events that led him to his current situation. His mother has been banished from her family, the D'Ascoynes, after she married Louis' father who was considered far beneath her. After her death, the D'Ascoynes refused permission for her to be buried in the family crypt. Louis then plots his revenge - and kills all those ahead of him in the succession until he becomes the Duke. Along the way, he becomes involved with the married Sibelia who, when spurned, makes sure he ends up in prison. The day before his execution Sibelia recants her testimony saving him not only from the gallows but also sets him free. Once outside the prison however, he realizes he's forgotten one little thing........
In the hours before his execution for murder, Louis, the 10th Duke of Chalfont, writes his memoirs. In them he details how, though descended from nobility, he grew up poor and had to pull himself up by his bootstraps, career-wise. Then, discovering that only eight members of the D'Ascoyne family stood between him and the dukedom, he systematically started killing them, making the murders look like accidents.
Louis Mazzini's mother belongs to the aristocratic family D'Ascoyne, but she ran away with an opera singer. Therefore, she and Louis were rejected by the D'Ascoynes. Once adult, Louis decides to avenges his mother and him, by becoming the next Duke of the family. Murdering every potential successor is clearly the safest way to achieve his goal...
Louis Mazzini's mother's frequent tales of how her titled D'Ascoyne family shunned her after she eloped with an Italian commoner causes a simmering resentment in him. On being spurned because of his lowly status by his lifetime (if devious and fickle) sweetheart Sibella he decides to permanently remove all the D'Ascoynes standing between him and the Dukedom. Becoming romantically involved with one of the widows he has created, he finds Sibella's jealousy could seriously threaten his grand design.
A distant poor relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.
- Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price) is a descendant of a family of English aristocrats, but when his mother married below her station, the D'Ascoyne family disowned her, which Louis finds disgraceful. When his mother's dying wish, to be buried in the family crypt, is not granted by the family, Louis is enraged and eager for revenge. Many D'Ascoynes stand between him and the dukedom bestowed upon the D'Ascoyne family many generations ago. In a rage, he resolves to kill all of them, one by one, and, thereby, become the duke. He studies the D'Ascoyne family and finds ways to weave in and out of their lives, gradually endearing himself to them and gaining the access he needs to carry out his murderous plot.
In the course of his systematic, and wholly undetected, elimination of the D'Ascoynes (all played by Alec Guiness), Louis becomes very intimate with Edith (Valerie Hobson), the lovely but priggish widow of one of the D'Ascoynes he has murdered. This creates some tension with his flirtatious (and married) childhood girlfriend Sibella (Joan Greenwood).
Once the homicidal plan is carried out successfully, Louis secures the dukedom he has coveted, but in a strange twist, he is accused of a murder which he has not committed, found guilty, and condemned. In fact, Louis has been betrayed by the testimony of Sibella, who wishes to be duchess, but sees that Edith, already a D'Ascoyne by marriage, will attain the title.
A doomed man soon to be hanged, Louis passes the time in prison by writing his memoirs, a detailed account of his murderous exploits. Sibella unexpectedly visits Louis in prison, which he finds distasteful as she figured so prominently in his prosecution, but she quickly makes the motive of her visit clear. She offers to 'discover' evidence of suicide (which she originally withheld) that would clear Louis from guilt if he agrees to marry her after leaving prison. He makes the deal with her and, just in time, he is pardoned and released.
As he exits the prison, both Sibella and Edith are there to meet him, and he is faced with a choice of two beautiful ladies, each with a reason for believing she will be chosen, and both of whom he wants for different reasons. As he ponders his choice, a reporter approaches him concerning the possible publication of his memoirs, and, disgustedly, Louis realizes that he has left evidence that will surely doom him within the walls of the prison, a sudden and particularly cruel twist of fate!