Author Topic: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)  (Read 1516 times)

Offline Antares

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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
« on: January 17, 2010, 12:13:23 AM »
Kind Hearts and Coronets

Year: 1949
Film Studio: Studio Canal
Genre: Comedy, Classic
Length: 106 Min.

Robert Hamer (1911)

Roy Horniman (1872)...Novel
Robert Hamer (1911)...Screenplay
John Dighton (1909)...Screenplay

Michael Balcon (1896)
Michael Relph (1915)

Douglas Slocombe (1913)

Ernest Irving (1878)...Composer

Dennis Price (1915) as Louis
Valerie Hobson (1917) as Edith
Joan Greenwood (1921) as Sibella
Alec Guinness (1914) as The Duke / The Banker / The Parson / The General / The Admiral / Young Ascoyne / Young Henry / Lady Agatha

       Long before Peter Sellers became famous for playing three separate characters in Dr. Strangelove, Alec Guinness set the benchmark for thespian versatility with his portrayal of all eight members of an aristocratic family who are systematically murdered by an estranged relative in Ealing Studio's black comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets. Although Guinness is more famous today for his portrayal of the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (a fact which brought him much consternation in his later years), this is the film that most film lovers believe is his tour-de-force performance.  

       The D’Ascoyne family is a prominent lineage of noblemen who date back to Edwardian England. They have fought in all of Britannia’s major land and sea battles since that time and are deeply ensconced in the prevailing doctrine of the day, which separates the levels of class in post-Victorian society. Unknown to the family is that in their pursuit to keep their bloodline pure, they have forged an enemy who will achieve through guile, treachery and blind luck, the mantle of patriarch of the D’Ascoyne family. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is the son of the estranged daughter Louisa D’Ascoyne, who in the family’s eyes has married beneath her station to a commoner, an Italian opera singer named Louis Mazzini Sr. (Price, also in a dual role). In an effort to distance them from this societal faux pas, the entire family has disowned her. When Louis Sr. unexpectedly dies at the announcement of his namesake’s birth, Louisa is left to fend for herself and her newborn. She will labor in the most menial of jobs to provide for her child, all the while fighting for Louis’ recognition by her alienated family. She schools Louis on the proud family lineage and explains to him that he is a distant successor to the title of Duke of Chalfont.

       As Louis reaches adulthood, fate deals him a cruel blow when Louisa is struck by a merchant’s wagon and subsequently dies. He swears to avenge the wrongs perpetrated against his mother by eliminating the remaining descendants of his distant family and becoming the ninth Duke of Chalfont. The pursuit of his vendetta is told in flashback as Louis is penning his memoirs from a prison cell, where he is being held prior to his pending execution. He has been charged in the murder of not one of the D’Ascoynes, but of a childhood friend who is married to his mistress Sibella (Joan Greenwood). Sibella is also a childhood friend who spurned Louis’ proposal of marriage because of his social status. When Sibella learns that his claim of D’Ascoyne ancestry is valid, she decides to blackmail him into marrying her after the suicide of her husband. Faced with impending poverty, she withholds the suicide note from Scotland Yard and frames Louis for his apparent murder after learning of an argument between the two men. In exchange for the title of Duchess of Chalfont, the ‘missing’ suicide note will mysteriously appear and exonerate Louis before his ascent to the gallows.

       Kind Hearts and Coronets is British humor at its darkest and may be totally misunderstood by audiences that find sight gags and sophomoric humor the pinnacle of comedic achievement. It is an exemplary bit of social satire that delivers its message in an abundance of dry wit and tongue-in-cheek innuendo.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 06:01:23 PM by Antares »