Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

I watched another highly recommended classic recently: Kind Hearts and Coronets. I must admit I was bored already by the title. When my husband told me Alec Guinness played eight different characters in the movie, I was only vaguely interested, my first thoughts being, "Who's Alec Guinness?" and "All those guys in old black and white movies look alike anyway." I know, I know, how can I call myself a movie reviewer, right? Perhaps my antagonism toward B&W movies stems from the enormous amount of mystery science theater I have been tortured with. Most of those are old movies and overwhelmingly awful. But it is true that the movies I have seen from this movie's era are quite good. While they are not my first pick for a Friday movie night, I am always surprised by how good these movies end up being.

Kind Hearts and Coronets is the story of a man whose mother was kicked out of her home for eloping with someone beneath her station and then denied her right to be in line for duchess or to have her son be an heir to the duke. Louis Mazzini grows up poor, not even able to pursue a career...until his mother dies and his "career" becomes vengeance through killing the 7 heirs and current duke (all played by Alec Guinness) standing in his way to the dukedom.

It's extremely dry humor, and you have to pay close attention to catch everything through the British accent. But the subject matter is entertaining. You almost feel bad for wanting Louis to succeed by the end, but without his success, there is no movie. So, you watch in mixed horror and fascination as he proceeds closer and closer to his goal.

I watched the British copy of the movie, which contains the old, offensive version of the nursery rhyme "Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Mo," as well as a more open-ended conclusion. Apparently the American version has parts edited out and a longer, more conclusive end. Personally, I like the mysterious uncertainty of the version I saw.

This movie also provides comic illustration to the phrase, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," and I will leave you wondering at that.

I won't say this is an absolutely necessary see, but there is certainly entertainment value here, in a sort of darkly humorous way. Three stars.


  1. In case Nick didn't tell you, Alec Guinnes is best remembered for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. (He was also in "Bridge Over River Kwai," an excellent WWII movie from the last '60s).

  2. Yes, Nick told me who Alec Guinness was. He's totally unrecognizable from Obi-Wan as a young man though.


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