A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
In prison awaiting execution the next morning, Louis, the 10th Duke of Chalfont, puts 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.Written by
The scene where six members of the D'Ascoyne's family, all played by Sir Alec Guinness, are seen together, took two days to film. The camera was set on a specially built platform to minimize movement. In addition, the camera operator spent the night with the camera to ensure that nothing moved it by accident. A frame with six black matte painted optical flat glass windows was set in front of the camera, and the windows opened one at a time so each of the characters could be filmed in turn. The film was then wound back for the next character. Most of the time was spent waiting for Guinness to be made up as the next character. See more »
When Louis is crossing out the twins on the family tree, a rubbed-out cross from an earlier take is visible. See more »
The opening credits list photos of the 4 leading actors with their character names; in the case of Alec Guinness, 8 photos of the 8 characters he plays are shown, along with the one character name of "The D'Ascoyne Family." In the end credits, the 8 character names are listed for him. See more »
The ending of the US version was extended to show the guards discovering Louis Mazzini's written memoirs/confessions to make it clear to the audience that he did not get away with the murders of his relatives, whilst the UK version remains ambiguous on the subject. See more »
When possible Duke Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price)'s mother dies, she leaves him a dying wish of being buried in his aristocratic family's plot who have shunned her all her life, he sets about getting it done. Imagine his fury and dismay when they say no. He sets about getting revenge, as well as winning the heart of the mercenary woman he loves through murdering each of the eight d'Ascoyne family members that stand between him and a title, riches, and everything that he feels he deserves.
Wearing the Ealing black comedy streak on its sleeve and gleefully black, Kind Hearts and Coronets has got to be one of the funniest films about murder to be made. Much of this owes kudos to Alec Guinness' fantastic performance, a true tour-de-force in comedy. He plays all eight of the family members, from the suffragette feminist Lady Agatha d'Ascoyne, to the dull and dim Reverend d'Ascoyne with commendable diversity, changing his tone, stature, facial expressions and accent to play each character as if they were a completely new person. Such a performance could only prepare us for good things, which Guinness then continued to deliver.
That said, Dennis Price takes the lead excellently. As Louis Mazzini d'Ascoyne, he murders, poisons and drowns each of the characters without a sense of remorse that could seem cold and inhumane, but the audience find amusing. We eagerly await his calculation of the death of another, because we know it will have hilarious consequences, and the plot never holds back. However, his dry narration tells a story that hides a sad tinge, as well as delivering sardonic social commentary on post-war Britain, where the gold digging (played with disgusting sugariness by Joan Greenwood) women were everywhere and to some people, rank was all that mattered. This is what makes each of the deaths so comical, giving us a little glee that the snobs are getting what they deserve.
For those who don't want to watch a film for the history lesson, no fear Kind Hearts and Coronets truly shines as a comedy. Even now, the one-liners and biting irony rings and every scene has a joke to laugh at. Under director Robert Hamer's ultra-capable hands, a warm-hearted satire has been crafted. You really can't get much better, or much intelligent than this.
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