Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) Poster

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The Supreme Example of Dramatic Irony
Picador6624 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers

Everyone describes this film as a black comedy, but its defining trait is its all-pervasive sense of irony. For starters, whereas DR. STRANGELOVE is a truly black comedy, ending in the destruction of the planet, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS is a moral tale in spite of its theme of cold-blooded revenge.

The "for instances" of irony go on forever in this film. Here are a few: Sibella rejects Louis for being too poor and marries the rich Lionel. Ultimately both she and Lionel turn in despair to the prosperous Louis for support.

As Young D'Ascoyne indifferently deprives Louis of his position at the shop, so Louis coolly goes on to replace Young D'Ascoyne at the bank.

The two members of the D'Ascoyne family who suffer the most emotional distress by Louis's murders (Edith and The Banker) are the two who do the most to give him aid and comfort.

The Reverend Henry, in spite of being a Christian minister, lives in an atmosphere of luxury and pleasure to excess. His very reputation provides an excuse for his poisoning and its resultant cover-up.

The Admiral's sheer inaccessibility protects him from Louis but dooms him all the same. Even a man standing beside him can't get through his thick skull in time to save him. He drowns at the salute with a life preserver bobbing nearby.

The General praises the fame of the Russians for their caviar, forgetting that they were also infamous for their bombs.

Lady Agatha is a crusader for women's rights, but it's her own equality with men as an heir to the Dukedom of Chalfond that marks her for elimination. Her willingness to martyr herself in one cause (women's suffrage and freeborn equality) gives Louis the opportunity to kill her for its exact opposite (patriarchy and inherited rights.)

The cruel and judgmental Duke is caught and sentenced to death in a mantrap set by his own orders, and executed with his own weapon.

Edith marries Louis as a show of faith in his innocence even though he turned her into a widow once before and will do so again if he's hanged.

The eager executioner loses his opportunity to hang a nobleman because his inflated sense of occasion delays the proceedings.

Lastly, Louis escapes the noose only to hang himself seven times over when years of meticulous planning are undone by a moment of forgetfulness.

The more you watch this movie, the more details emerge each time. They don't write scripts this brilliant anymore.
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Devilishly funny.
PizzicatoFishCrouch27 April 2006
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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Brilliantly fun, dark humour and satire
Wulfstan1023 March 2005
Undoubtedly one of the most perfect, brilliant comedies ever, this movie is extremely fun and revels in its dark, clever humour. What can one say about a comedy centred around a dapper, charming, likable, impoverished young English gentleman who is at the same time an utterly remorseless, ever-calculating killer who has no qualms about killing an entire line of relatives who all stand in his path to inherit the family fortune? On top of that, he all the while takes great care in preserving his demeanor and status as a gentleman; all the relatives he must eliminate are brought to life by the genius of Alec Guinness; and there's an executioner who takes pains to show proper respect to his social "superior." The dialogue, indeed pretty much all of the humour, is a shining example of "British humour" at its best. It is subtle, clever, dark, and full of irony and satire. It is pure, brilliant entertainment that doesn't stop. Comedy really can't get much better than this.
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His memoirs!
jotix1005 August 2005
Robert Hamer, the director of "Kind Hearts and Coronets", one of the better comedies to come out of the Ealing studios in the late forties, created a memorable film that still keeps enchanting, no matter how many times one has seen it. This is a film that like a vintage wine gets better with age.

Of course, the right elements were put together in this venture under Mr. Hamer's direction, which is probably the best tribute one could say about the film.

Louis Mazzini, the young man who should have inherited a noble title that is lost as her mother elopes with an Italian tenor and she is disinherited. Louis is determined to regain what's due to him, by whatever means possible. Things go well for him, but he commits a mistake in entering an illicit romance with the calculating Sibella, while at the same time falling in love with the radiant Edith D'Ascoyne, the young widow.

Dennis Price gives a smart account of Louis Mazzini. He is a delight to watch as he keeps scratching off dead relatives from behind the picture frame. Alec Guinness portrays eight D'Ascoynes with an unusual panache. Best of all is Lady Agatha who encounters 'turbulence' while flying in a balloon. Valerie Hobson makes an impression with her Edith and Joan Greenwood is at her best as Sibella.

This is a film to treasure.
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Quite superb
Tom May9 July 2001
This fine film is an example of Ealing at its very best, with a superlative script and acting of a very high standard. In watching, one is once more all too sadly aware of the difference in quality between British films of this era and today; there can't have been in recent times a screenplay as cleverly comic, economical and incisive as this is. The level of wit is high, and perfectly suitable for a black comedy such as this. Certain lines and scenes linger agreeably in the memory; the part where Price, in his droll narration, slips into verse, is wonderful, as is the "fight" he has with a lower-class rival; "I'm not going to drawn into a scuffle with you!"

The element of class satire is strong, and while one is shown the lethargy and complacency of the upper classes through the amusing parade of Alec Guinness' characters, Price's corrupt plans are never condemned as such. His character, vigorous and witty, and the clever tool of narration, which in its tone draws in the viewer almost as a confidant. Similarly, but to an even more effective degree than in "Whisky Galore!" (1948) and "The League of Gentlemen" (1959), the viewer is made sympathetic to wrong-doings. The stunningly executed plot and dialogue are finely put across indeed by all of the actors. In the main role, Price refines and defines the cad Mancini perfectly; it really is a great performance, making the character more than memorable. Alec Guinness is great in his 8 roles, making a distinctive actorly mark in all of them. It says a lot that in a career as formidable as Guinness', in TV, film and theatre, his contribution to this film particularly stands out. The two ladies are impeccably played by Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood, who contrast quite perfectly; Hobson as rich and strait-laced if certainly beautiful, and Greenwood as the distinctively seductive childhood friend. Price's "juggling" of his two women is wonderfully arch and amusing. The film's ending should be noted as quite ingenious and wonderfully in keeping with the film's overall wit.

In the context even of Ealing, a studio adept at clever comedies, this is an extra-special film. Along with the films of this era of Powell and Pressburger and Carol Reed, this film makes one nostalgic for the days when British film was both distinctively British and universal in its qualities. Wonderfully funny and compelling, this film is one of my few favourites of all and overwhelmingly recommended.

Rating:- *****/*****
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My most beloved Ealing film, it's dated but in a good way
FrangipaniMozzie18 November 2010
As I've said on all my Ealing movie reviews, I watched these cause the plots looked interesting but I'm still unsure on how to judge the movies. I'm not one to dismiss them as 'old' and therefore 'boring'; at the same time I don't just jump on the bandwagon saying they're classics just because they've got that reputation and a lot of people without even judging for themselves assume they're great.

To quote to further my point - "A Classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read. A classic is also something that everyone praises but no one has read." -Mark Twain So, watching this with an open mind, I really enjoyed it. Yes you have to realise it's not a modern movie so the kind of themes and scenes presented are different from the packaged elements of modern Hollywood, but that makes postwar British cinema very refreshing viewing. I think the use of the term 'comedy' is misleading because it most likely refers to it in the classic literary sense from Shakespeare and Greek theatre (probably in the early 20th century people were a bit better read than today so these terms would still have meaning to them) which refers to a story with happy ending and farcial plot and wit rather than obvious jokes like in the modern sense but even these movies have some funny scenes. Also the humour and premise is black comedy and subtle so look for something modern if you need laugh-out-loud movies.

'Kind Hearts and Coronets' When I first came across this the plot looked so unique I knew I just had to see it at least once, although I've rewatched it many times since. I do find Guinness's 8 roles are over-hyped because most of them have few lines and the distinctions between a few of them are non-existent though it's still a novelty and a brave act to pull off in a movie. For me, Mazzini's 'bad guy' characterisation is the most appealing element of the movie, with a characterisation that makes even a criminal charming and someone to empathise with a little (and for me some visual appeal). The unique premises of who we see him murder next and the wit and black humour makes it a treasure of a film that I'm glad was made and is still available and enjoyed.

One of my most beloved films for definite. Definitely worth one watch just to see something different.
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The greatest Ealing movie ever
McMurdo27 December 1999
I was made to watch this movie by my mum many, many years ago. I grumbled for maybe 15 minutes. After that, I was in love. This is definitely one of the best films I've ever seen. Ealing at its best. Alec Guinness at his best. Truly a phenomenal movie. Dark, humorous and brilliantly directed, it's definitely one of the greatest films to come out of Britain. Please rent it (if you can find it). I agree with the other comment - it's totally under-appreciated. Except by those who've seen it.
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Deliciously dark and delightfully devilish.......
Paul Shrimpton13 January 2005
Kind Hearts and Coronets is Ealing comedy at it's pinnacle.

From Alec Guinness we see a masterly display of his acting talent, which we can now look back on with a knowing nod, but in 1949 this was a revelation of a new young talent. From Dennis Price we see the cool, calculated killer, totally focused and utterly charming in every way, and for whom every act of homicide must never, ever, offend the sensitive nature of the English Gentleman. From the supporting cast, we see great performances from Miles Malleson as the hangman, whose determination to address the Duke correctly leads him to practice his bowing, scraping, and 'Your Grace'-ing. Also, there is a great performance from Valerie Hobson as the widowed Edith D'Ascoyne. My favourite role (other than the lead) was Joan Greenwood as Sibella Holland - played in such a sultry, seductive way that I immediately thought of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming!

This is a superb movie, and one I'd recommend to anyone who wants to truly understand how movies should be made.
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Ealing's finest hour
j30bell11 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The best and most loved of the Ealing Comedies is also the darkest. Kind Hearts and Coronets is probably most famous today as "that film in which Alec Guinness plays eight characters." That said, it is Denis Price as Louis Mazzini, the charming, urbane serial killer, who really steals the show.

The film opens in prison, with the Louis Mazzini D'Ascoyne, Ninth Duke of Chalfont awaiting execution for one of the few suspicious deaths in the film he wasn't responsible for. On that, his last night, he is completing his memoirs, which act as a framing device for the rest of the film, as well as allowing for a dry, witty narration from Mazzini himself.

Kind Hearts and Coronets is everything modern cinema is not. It is not laugh-out-loud comedy, but a biting wit that often leaves you wondering whether you should be laughing at all. The screenwriter takes seeming delight in the precision of the dialogue, with no unnecessary verbiage. This culminates in an astonishing minimalist performance from Price when he finds himself in the dock of the House of Lords, being tried by his peers.

I suppose you could look at Kind Hearts and Coronets as a form of social commentary. It was made after WWII, after the Beverage reforms, and may reflect a growing restlessness with the stuffiness of the old social order. Certainly, Louis is presented with such sympathy, and his nefarious endeavours told with such gleeful abandon that it is difficult for the audience not to identify with him.

You could regard it as a form of social commentary but, frankly, why bother? It's just glorious fun and, despite a certain English post-war feel, surprisingly modern and anarchic – there can be few films, even today, which cast a multiple murderer so firmly in the hero role. And there can be few modern films were the dialogue is so witty, for instance, when excusing his flustered state of mind after his first murder by saying "furthermore, I am not naturally callous".

Of course, everyone talks about Alec Guinness' acting tour de force – playing all eight other members of the D'Ascoyne family; from young Ascoyne D'Ascoyne to the hilariously named Elthelred D'Ascoyne (presumable unready for the fate that awaits him), the Eighth Duke of Chalfont. In reality, few of these characters receive more than a footnote in the film. But this is more than made up for by the splendid cast of other leading British actors – Denis Price, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood being the notables.

This remains not only my favourite Ealing Comedy, but right up there with Dr Strangelove as one of my favourite comedy films ever made. A wonderful, heart-warming tale of multiple murder. 9½ / 10
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First class British film-making.
a_reynolds28 November 2004
As is the case with most great things, the basic premise of this film is simple. There is, however, an essential darkness at the heart of the movie: the cold blooded and calculating murder of all those who stand between Dennis Price and his possible succession to a title. That this is treated in so light and civilised a way is the triumph of the film. The screenplay and performances complement each other perfectly and are a credit to all those involved. I cannot think of a weak link in the film. The casting was beautifully judged down to the most minor character. The leads are, though, just about perfect. For my money, it is the best of Dennis Price's film work (though his Jeeves on television in the 60's was good, too). Guinness was splendid and well supported by Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood. I have probably seen the film more than a dozen times in the past thirty years. Each time it offers something fresh and new. Quite simply one of the best.
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eight Guinnesses for the price of one
didi-523 June 2003
"Kind Hearts and Coronets" is really an essay in acting from one of Britain's greatest, Sir Alec Guinness, and what better way to remember him than the film which gave him eight roles to play? True, one or two are barely given time to register before Dennis Price dispatches them (Lady Agatha would have been interesting as a fully rounded character), but those which are developed - Henry, the photography enthusiast in particular, are cleverly played and memorable. Price also does well in his role. The ladies - Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson - are excellent. The great strength of this film is in its black humour, and of course in its delicious twist ending. I can't bear to think of it remade with a 2000's gloss.
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Comedy of wit and manners reaches its height here---PLEASE DO NOT REMAKE IT!
Robert Hirschfeld31 March 2004
I've seen this gem half a dozen times and look forward to seeing it a few times more. It's a masterpiece of unsentimental, yet genteel, humor, and features performances by some extraordinary actors. Sir Alec Guiness's eight different turns have been much commented on and deserve every superlative they've received. Dennis Price is too little recognized--in the US, at least--for his gifts, as his work here proves. Valerie Hobson is wonderful, and Joyce Greenwood is...I would happily buy a recording of her reading the OED, just to hear that astonishing voice. And, in a small but marvelous role, Miles Malleson is superb. If you have not seen this film, it's readily available. Give yourself a treat. I know that Hollywood seems to have forgotten that there's nothing to be gained by trying to remake a perfect film. If they ever dare to do it with this one--I don't give a damn who is in it, or who directs or writes--don't bother. See the original. None genuine without the Ealing Label.
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Kind Hearts and Coronets-Remember Tower of London? ***1/2
edwagreen3 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Wonderful reminder of the 1939 film with Basil Rathbone "Tower of London." In that one Basil Rathbone systematically eliminated members of the family including children to fulfill his goals. It's the same thing here where a young man never forgot that his mother had been slighted by the family for supposedly marrying beneath her.

When she dies in poverty, he, as a young man, decides to do something about it. How he goes about bumping off the family members is memorable in itself. It just goes to show you that class distinctions could possibly drive anyone up the walls.

What makes this film so good is the ironic twists that we see occurring between our gentleman friend and the two ladies of his life. How fate deals with him in the end is just hysterically too good.

Kudos to Alec Guiness for the variety of parts he assumed.
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a tour de force for Guinness
MartinHafer1 July 2005
Although most Americans have little knowledge of his work other than Star Wars, Alec Guinness produced an amazing body of work--particularly in the 1940s-1950s--ranging from dramas to quirky comedies. I particularly love his comedies, as they are so well-done and seem so natural and real on the screen--far different from the usual fare from Hollywood.

Before I saw this film, I had seen The Mouse That Roared and was spellbound by Peter Sellars and how he played the roles of so many people in that little movie (ranging from the hero to the prime minister to even the queen). I did not realize until later that Alec Guinness had done an equally masterful job about a decade earlier with this movie.

Although not quite my favorite Ealing film starring him, it is certainly among my favorites. It is the story of a serial killer who you find yourself rooting for to get away with the crimes! Unlike some sicko, the main character has some understandable motivation for killing off several extended family members in order to obtain the family fortune. And when he kills several of these people, you find yourself wanting him to kill them as well! Now that takes amazing writing and acting to pull that off!! So see this charming little comedy. It has come on Turner Classic Movies several times lately, but if you can find the video, rent it!
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Kind Hearts And Coronets is an elegant black comedy.
G K6 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
An embittered heir apparent will stop at nothing to get his hands on his fortune, so he embarks on killing eight members of the D'Ascoyne family who stand between him and the money.

Kind Hearts And Coronets is probably the jewel in the crown of Ealing comedies, this is most notable, of course, for the uncanny versatility of Alec Guinness in playing all eight intended victims. Yet he has a splendid cast around him, and a darkly witty script – a DIY manual of inventive ways to bump off enemies. The nastiness is delivered with genteel style, and though the film might have been more visually interesting, it is overall a delight. The film is listed in Time magazine's top 100, and in the BFI Top 100 British films.
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"It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms."
ackstasis27 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Though it had been producing films since the 1930s, it wasn't until 1949 that Ealing Studios finally commenced its golden period. In was in this year that they released the first batch of their most entertaining comedies, including Alexander Mackendrick's 'Whisky Galore! (1949),' Henry Cornelius' 'Passport to Pimlico (1940),' Charles Frend's 'A Run for Your Money (1949)' {a little-known gem of which I'm very fond} and, of course, Robert Hamer's 'Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949),' which launched Alec Guinness into a successful career with the studio. Easily one of the darkest comedies of its era, Hamer's film was loosely adapted from the novel "Israel Rank," by Roy Horniman – among other changes, the main character was renamed from Israel Rank to Louis Mazzini, to avoid any perceived anti-Semitism so soon after World War Two. The title itself was derived from an 1842 poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which reads, in part: "Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood."

The films of Ealing Studios can often be characterised as good-natured, down-to-earth comedy offerings, light-hearted in tone and always steering towards the attainment of community betterment; characters typically conclude the film having learned a valuable lesson, and the ending is usually most ideal for all concerned. Later films such as 'The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)' and especially 'The Ladykillers (1955)' returned to the murky themes of Hamer's film, but they couldn't avoid reinforcing the age-old adage that "crime doesn't pay," whereas this comedy leaves ample room for the possibility of our killer escaping scot-free {however, for audiences across the Atlantic, the Production Code dictated that this ambiguity be removed}. Likely influenced by Charles Chaplin's 'Monsieur Verdoux (1947)' – a "comedy of murders" – Hamer unwaveringly filled his film to the brim with dark themes, dry wit and bitter irony, finding a hilariously suave and classy serial killer in actor Dennis Price, whose unflinching murderous plight attains a twisted sense of empathy through the maltreatment of his mother's memory at the hands of the D'Ascoyne family.

I've often remarked that Alec Guinness never plays the same role twice, his character changing unrecognisably from picture to picture. In the case of this film, he virtually changes from scene to scene, portraying all eight heirs to the Dukedom of Chalfont with uproarious charisma and versatility. It helps that most of Guinness' creations, merely targets for the conniving Louis Mazzini, are wholly unlikable or frustratingly senile, though there's certainly a pang of regret when the amiable photography hobbyist is murdered, and the manner in which The Duke is dispatched is shocking in its sheer cold-bloodedness. Perhaps a single complaint is that the murders of Lady Agatha and the General were skipped over much too quickly, and I would have enjoyed a more in-depth examination of the mechanics of the crime. The final act of the film is swathed in a healthy dose of irony, as Mazzini is arrested and charged for the one murder he didn't commit, his fate sealed and then rescued by his jilted mistress, Sibella (Joan Greenwood), who alone guesses the truth about what he has done.
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Irony abounds in an Ironicly Perfect film
ozthegreatat4233022 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Dennis Price stars as a nobleman about to be executed for a murder he did not commit, after having committed eight other murders for which he was never suspected. He was perfectly cast in the part of the ninth Duke D'Ascoyne. But if anyone steals the show it is Alec Guinness as the eight members of the D'Ascoyne family that all meet untimely ends at the hands of Price's character. The great Sir Alec is in fine form as always in one of Britian's finest motion pictures, from the now defunct Ealing Studios. Another gem of a performance is that of Miles Malleson as the hangman. All in all quite a romp. This is one of those films which (thank God) should never be remade as there is no room for improvement on the original, and any other attempt would be demeaning at best.
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Ealing black comedy
faraaj-123 October 2006
Immediately after WW2, Ealing Studios produced a number of black comedies, several starring Alec Guiness who was just starting to be noticed as an actor. One of the last in the series, The Ladykillers, was foolishly remade by the Coen Brothers (starring Tom Hanks) and it stank. The original films had a dark humor, moral ambiguity, ingenious plots and great dialog. The best in the series was Kind Hearts and Coronets - made almost at the start of the cycle.

The stars are Dennis Price as Mazzini Jr. whose deceased mother was a member of the D'Ascoyne film before being disowned for marrying an Italian opera singer. Alec Guiness plays the eight surviving D'Ascoyne's (including Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne) whose deaths could lead Mazzini to becoming Duke of Chalfont castle. Kind Hearts is a wonderfully black comedy about how Mazzini disposes of his relatives one by one in order to avenge his mother and become rich in the process. The greatest thing to note is the witty upper-class dialog. Dennis Price has the right mixture of believability and sleaziness while Guiness gives a tour-de-force of colorful performances.

Kind Hearts is a very good introduction to Ealing comedies. Other good entries would be The Lavender Hill Mob (more cockney humor), The Ladykillers (which was actually funny unlike the remake) and The Man in the White Suit. All three star Alec Guiness. Then there are those without Guiness like Passport to Pimlico and Whisky Galore!
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A film in the mode of a Jane Austin novel.
sandra small16 July 2006
Kind Hearts and Corrents is in a sense an extrapolation of Jane Austin's satire of the English aristocracy. Where Austin gives the reader a sarcastic insight into their ways of life, Kind Hearts and Correnets kills the English aristocracy off, as if to symbolise their slow demise within modernity. But, as this film illustrates the aristocracy has methods of survival via its never ending line of descendants ready to take on hereditary titles. Ironically, the survival of the dukedom in this film is due to the actual banished heir to that title murdering his relatives who stand in his way. If you like, this is an illustration of how there will always be an aristocracy of sorts, in the form of rulers in all types of societies, as illustrated in George Orwell's Animal Farm. This is because as the famous psychologist Erich Fromm says, as a conservative society we have a 'fear of freedom' and depend on being subordinates of rulers, like children to their parents. In Kind Hearts and Correnets we see an example of this when the duke performs his paternalistic duty for his dependant proletariat.

The irony is that the lead actor, Dennis Price, in Kind Hearts and Corerenets is a descendant of minor aristocracy, himself deprived of his title due to the paternalistic line being directed away from him. In this case he plays the part of the denounced heir superbly. Meanwhile Valery Hobson shines out as a beautiful, elegant lady, which could be less to do with acting skills and more about playing herself.

As for Sir Alec Guiness, it goes without saying that he steals the film, with his range of acting talents, here some of them showcased in all the characters he plays.

In the case of the screenplay, it is wittily directed, well paced, entertaining, and never for a second boring. This permits a distraction for the viewer, and the overlooking of the minor flaw of how there were no accusations pointed towards the lead character which are to the viewer easily detectable given that he was present at most of the murders of his arosticratic relatives.

Overall, an ageless classic.
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One of the Very Best
Felix-285 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I'm with those who rate this film as one of the best comedies ever made. Reading the comments, there is much said about the quality of the acting and the bizarre nature of the plot.

I regard one of its chief delights as being the ever-present tension between the gruesome nature of the hero's enterprise and the polish and sophistication of his manners. This tension is continually highlighted by the plot. An example of this is the scene where Louis Mazzini is sitting drinking tea with Edith D'Ascoyne in the garden, and calmly continues their conversation as smoke begins to appear behind her in the distance, from the hut where her husband is being incinerated.

The other chief delight for me is the language. Every word of the dialogue and narration is precise, conveying neither more nor less that it ought. The examples given on the "Memorable Quotes" section are by no means all that could have been chosen. Lines like those can of course only be delivered by actors who are completely familiar with the English language at its most refined, and who have the composure to speak them as they were meant to be spoken. It is a joy to watch and listen to them.

I have watched this film many times, and it never loses its freshness. There is nothing spectacular about it, no flash; just a constant succession of rare treats to be enjoyed again and again.

I cannot conceive of a better comedy than this ever being made, so I give it 10.
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Bravura performance from Alec Guiness. Superb Dennis Price
eileencochrane28 January 2007
Possibly the best British film ever made. A superb performance from the much under-rated (even by himself) Dennis Price. How sad that this was to be one of his only truly great performances, but what a fantastic film to be remembered for. Whilst Alec Guiness has received deserved praise over the years for his clever portrayal of all the members of the noble d'Ascoigne family, in my opinion the film belongs to Dennis Price. The support from the two leading ladies is also something to treasure. I just love the sultry-voiced Joan Greenwood as the delightfully selfish Sybella. If you have never seen this film, WHY NOT?
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"You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."
Robert J. Maxwell5 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There's more than a touch of Oscar Wilde in this film. There is irony and elegant decadence, both in the visuals and in the script. The narrator, Louis Mazzini (Price), has murdered several people who stand between him and the title to which he feels entitled. Invited to go on a hunt with one of his victims-to-be he agrees to stroll along but refuses to carry a shotgun because he is opposed to blood sports. The protagonist is supercilious, snotty, and a complete egotist who is happy that one of his benefactors dies a natural death since it makes it unnecessary to kill him. It's so uncomfortable to murder someone with whom one has not had disagreements.

What also strikes me is the resemblance to Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita", both in its structure and execution. Of course the movie lacks all of Nabokov's poetry ("Light of my life. Fire of my loins") but so does everything else ever written.

Yet there are some isomorphic qualities in "Kind Hearts and Coronets," aside from the elegant irony and the snobbishness of the narrator. Humbert Humbert is guilty not just of killing Quilty but of ruining the youth of an adolescent girl and he comments on his own perversity with the kind of distant amusement that Price's narrator does. Price's own debaucheries amuses him. At a wedding, he congratulates the groom whose virginal bride he seduced the evening before: "You're a lucky man. Take my word for it." And, like Humbert, he feels nothing but contempt for people with "suburban ways". He's fastidious in his wardrobe and grooming. And if Humbert's love for Lolita was real, it was rarely expressed without being undercut by irony. ("I was a pentapod monster.") Similarly, Price has one real engine driving him -- a genuine desire to revenge the humiliation and death of his beloved mother -- although it's only brought up seriously once or twice. Both Price, as Mazzini, and Humbert Humbert are always showing off and quoting poetry. (Price's final quote, "How happy could I be with either, Were t' other dear charmer away!" is from Gay's "The Beggar's Opera.")

The movie is extremely funny. The acting is superb all around, with Guiness being the splashiest performer in his five roles. But Price could not be improved upon. The way he manhandles his drunken rival Lionel, throwing him to the floor, then brushing his hands as if they'd been dirtied. And his improvised sample of the Matabele language ("colloquial rendering of course").

The director has all of this down just pat. It's a very British movie. The understatement is almost overstated. Only two of the murdered people die on screen -- one peacefully. I cannot see an American remake of this without a lot of on screen blood and violence which, in my humble opinion, would drain the story of much of its humor.

I will give just one example of what I mean, out of many possible. One of the men standing between Price and his title of Duke of Chalfont is played by Guiness as an amateur photography enthusiast who keeps a stash of sherry and whiskey in his windowless woodshed, in which he develops his prints. Guiness also hides some whiskey there, his wife being a "prig". Price substitutes an explosive for the kerosene in the lamp of the darkroom. Later, Price, Guiness, and Guiness's wife (Hobson) are having tea and Guiness decides to rush off to the woodshed to "develop" some film, leaving Price and Hobson carrying on a civilized conversation. About one hundred yards behind the couple is a stone wall behind which is the shed. Some time passes while Price and Hobson trade decorous Victorian observations on photography and so forth. During this exchange we hear a slight "thud". A few moments later a wisp of white smoke appears from behind the stone wall, roughly in the vicinity of the woodshed. The smoke increases and becomes a billow, at which point Price comments that "someone must be burning leaves in the garden." Try as I might, I can't imagine a modern remake of this particular scene without a long suspenseful and explicit demonstration of Guiness going into the shed, striking a match, lighting the lamp, and having it explode in his face. There would follow an exterior shot of the shed being blown apart by a fireball, the stones flying through the air, the shrieks of Hobson and Price at their tea. It would simply be a different movie and not nearly as good.

Man, this is funny. See it quick before they remake it and ruin it, as they did recently with Ealing's "The Ladykillers."
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Superb Ealing comedy, with Alec Guinness especially outstanding
TheLittleSongbird25 April 2010
As much as I loved The Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets is my personal favourite of the Ealing comedies. One might argue that the narration is overused, I would say the narration added to the darkness, wit and charm of this superb film. The cinematography is crisp and smooth, and the score is great. Then we are treated to a deliciously witty script, that is funny, dark and has bite. The story slips smoothly between dastardly deaths in the guise of a self-satisfied memoir, and is gripping while moving along at a good pace, and the direction is secure. But it is the quality of the acting that elevates Kind Hearts and Coronets. Dennis Price is brilliant as the inventive killer, and Joan Greenwood is delicious as Sibella the vamp. Also convincing as Edith is Valerie Hobson, but the scene stealer in no less than eight roles is Alec Guinness in a real tour de force. While some of his roles are small, they perfectly show off his versatility. Overall, superb and deliciously dark Ealing comedy. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Kind Hearts
polos_are_minty28 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Will Rabagliati Well that was definitely the best film I have seen, which I haven't chosen, thus far. It is one of those old Black and Whites which at first glance you think is going to be another typical piece of 1940s British cinema. This opinion could not be further from the truth. In the 1940s, the majority of British Film released was heavy Drama, and Wartime films, things like Kind Hearts were entirely neglected. So I feel it is a nice break from your average piece of 40s film.

There are so many little things about this film which combine to make it one of the most entertaining comedies I have seen. The naration of the lead is brilliant, and without it I feel the film would lose marks. I love the calm, collected and often hilarious way in which he goes through his story and all the terrible things he has done.

The picture is totally charming, the cinematography and direction seems to capture the feel of what is supposed to be going on perfectly. I love the fact that the director often manages to give the film a look of charming and happy innocene, whilst the protagonist is in the process of some terrible deed. One particular scene sprigns to mind as the scene in which Henry D'Ascoyne dies. I love how our Hero sits calmy in the idyllic English countryside with his murder victims wife, calmly taking afternoon tea, and when he sees smoke from the explosion he makes some comment about burning leaves. Brilliant.

The trial in the House Of Lords is one of my favourite scenes from the film, I again love the collectedness of the protagonist as he sits through his trial. I also really enjoy seeing the House of Lords being used as it should be, not ruined by these awful modernists.

The film is awesome. The story is great, a man low down in the sucssesion trying to become Duke. What more could you want? It's a comedy, so I didn't expect well defined characthers and a finely tuned story, so was surprised to get one.

The ending of the film is possibly one of the greatest and funniest film endings I have ever seen. It seems to be a recurring theme recently that we never find out what happens at the very end... All in all9/10
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A classic dark comedy.
Sunami3 July 2005
To my mind nobody as yet attempted to do a remake of this film. This Ealing classic is now over 50 years old and has well stood the test of time. Fine acting by the likes of Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood (even a small cameo by Arthur Lowe of later BBC television Dads Army fame).

In summary a murderous plot containing a devious story line coupled with a supple twist at the ending all go together to create a classic British black comedy. I still believe this is Ealing films finest picture.

All I can say further is if you ever get the chance to see this film by all means do so you won't be disappointed.
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