Thursday, May 17, 2012

215. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Robert Hamer
Written By: Robert Hamer, Roy Horniman, John Dighton, from the novel Israel Rank by Roy Horniman
Main Cast: Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood, Audrey Fildes
Click here to view the trailer


Today I take a look at the last of the Ealing Studios comedies from THE BOOK - "Kind Hearts and Coronets". While not as good as "The Lavender Hill Mob" or even "The Ladykillers", it was still a fun time at the movies.

When the film begins, Louis Mazzini (Price) is in prison, awaiting his execution for murder, which will take place the following morning. As he writes his memoirs, we flashback to the events that landed him in his current predicament. We flashback all the way to Louis' birth, where we learn that his mother was shunned by the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family for marrying a commoner, in the way of an Italian opera singer. Louis is born and upon laying eyes on his newborn son, Louis' father dies of a heart attack. His mother raises him to adulthood and wishes only the best for her son. She urges him to get a career as opposed to a job, but when writing to the D'Ascoyne family, in search of help, she is promptly blown off. Louis' mother dies and with her final breath she wishes to be buried in the D'Ascoyne family vault. This request is also denied, which prompts Louis to avenge his mother and take his rightful place as Duke of Chalfont. There are eight members of the D'Ascoyne family that supersede Louis in the succession of the dukedom (nine if you count the current Duke) and Louis plots to kill them all, take his birthright of Duke of Chalfont and avenge the honor of his dead mother.

Obi-Wan Kenobi in drag as Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne
I really don't have much to say about this one, so we'll keep it short and sweet today. The few complaints that I have about "Kind Hearts and Coronets" are the lack of Alec Guinness onscreen and the middle portion of the film, which really seems to drag as we make our way toward the end. You'd think that for a guy that has nine roles, Alec Guinness would be featured more, but believe it or not, he's not in the film THAT much and it's actually Dennis Price who is the star of "Kind Hearts and Coronets". That's actually not all bad news, as Price was actually quite devilish and sophisticated in his portrayal of Louis Mazzini, with his prim & proper speech and calm demeanor. After Louis wipes out the majority of the D'Ascoyne family, there's still a lot of time to kill and the film really starts to lose some of it's steam. The movie takes it's time establishing the relationship between Louis & Edith and Louis & Sibella and it takes time away from the real meat & potatoes of the plot, which is a man murdering his way through a family in order to claim dukedom.

Otherwise the film is a whole lot of fun. Like I said above, I didn't like it near as much as "The Lavender Hill Mob", another Ealing Studios comedy that I watched for THE BOOK, one that got mentioned in a previous TOP 20 and also starred Alec Guinness. I actually would even prefer "The Ladykillers", as it was also a whole lot of fun and had more focus on the plot than "Kind Hearts..." did.  I think it's another case of not being able to follow the hype that preceded it, as I had heard so many great things about this movie and how, hands down, it was the best of the best as far as Ealing films went. Price is magnificent, Guinness does a fine job working eight roles and the movie itself is tons of fun, one that's really easy to enjoy, despite that lagging middle portion.

RATING: 6.5/10  The next time I see Alec Guinness in a BOOK movie, I'll be watching him battle the Dark Side.


May 17, 2012  5:08pm

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