Kind Hearts And Coronets

1949, Movie, NR, 105 mins


Coming on the heels of GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST, this was the film that made Alec Guinness an international star. Although Dennis Price has the largest single role in the picture (and plays it beautifully), Guinness took the lion's share of the credit for its success with a tour de force performance as no less than eight characters, all members of the same family. A black comedy about mass murder, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS is one of the British film industry's funniest movies, as well as one of the most memorable and notorious.

The action is set around 1900. Price is in line to a dukedom, but is treated as a pariah because of his mother's unfortunate marriage. Seething with class resentment, he decides to remove all the obstacles in his way. While conducting an affair with the married Greenwood, he begins knocking off his relatives in various fanciful ways. Matters are complicated when he falls in love with Hobson, the widow of one of his victims. But after Price ascends to the dukedom and marries Hobson, fate catches up: he's arrested for a murder he did not commit.

The film is full of bright dialogue and quotable quotes ("Revenge is the dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold!"). Robert Hamer (who also directed) and John Dighton loosely based the story on Roy Horniman's turn-of-the-century novel Israel Rank, dispensing with all but the core of the book to write the sharp screenplay. The result, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, is one of those films that can be seen repeatedly and still offer surprises. As a combination of rollicking black humor and satirical pokes at the English upper crust, nothing else comes close. leave a comment

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