Kind Hearts and Coronets

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Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a 1949 Ealing comedy film. more...

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The script was written by John Dighton and Robert Hamer and was very loosely based on a book, Israel Rank, by Roy Horniman. The title is a quotation from Tennyson's 1842 poem "Lady Clara Vere de Vere", which proclaims that "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood."

It starred Alec Guinness playing eight different members of the D'Ascoyne family. There are also notable performances from Dennis Price as the leading character, Joan Greenwood as a femme fatale, and Valerie Hobson; a young Arthur Lowe has a cameo at the end.

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Kind Hearts and Coronets the 25th greatest comedy film of all time. In 2004 the same magazine named it the 7th greatest British film of all time.

Dennis Price plays "Louis Mazzini" whose mother, having blackened the D'Ascoyne name by eloping with an Italian opera singer, was consequently ostracised by the family. On her death, Louis seeks revenge on the D'Ascoynes, aiming to succeed to the Dukedom of Chalfont. The obstacles in his path — his eight relatives ahead of him in line for the title — are all played by Alec Guinness; and Louis sets out to murder them all in various inventive (and sometimes even humourous) ways.

Only two relatives die before Mazzini has an opportunity to kill them, the Admiral D'Ascoyne, and the eldest of the group, who was Mazzini's employer before his death of a stroke. In a scene which was a satire of the sinking of HMS Victoria in 1893, the pompous and stupid Admiral D'Ascoyne causes his ship to collide with another one and stands saluting on the bridge whilst it sinks beneath his feet.

The film is especially memorable for its witty one-liners, two of which are quoted below.

  • Sibella: Oh Louis! I don't want to marry Lionel!
  • Louis Mazzini: Why not?
  • Sibella: He's so dull.
  • Louis Mazzini: I must admit he exhibits the most extraordinary capacity for middle age that I've ever encountered in a young man of twenty-four.

  • Sibella: He says he wants to go to Europe to expand his mind.
  • Louis Mazzini: He certainly has room to do so.

There are also a number of delicious voice-overs from Mazzini. He despatches the first D'Ascoyne over a wier in the company of a girl with whom he, D'Ascoyne, had been enjoying an illicit weekend in Maidenhead. "I was sorry about the girl," Mazzini muses, "but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably, during the weekend, already undergone a fate worse than death..."


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