Film Review: Kind Hearts and Coronets

For many people, Sir Alec Guinness will always be remembered as Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. Indeed, in that sense he’s possibly one of the most recognisable faces in cinema history. He was a phenomenal character actor and starred in a number of memorable roles. These include Fagan in Oliver Twist, Scrooge, Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai and Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia. Some of his best work was in Ealing Comedies (The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, A Run for Your Money, Barnacle Bill) and it was in Kind Hearts and Coronets where he gave his most rounded performance(s).

When his mother, the youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Chalfont, eloped with an Italian opera singer, she was disinherited. What should have been a privileged and comfortable life for Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) instead became one of hard work and strife. His childhood friend Sibella (Joan Greenwood) scoffs at his marriage proposal and instead marries the much wealthier Lionel Holland (John Penrose). When Louis finally seems to be making progress, a disagreement with a customer, who just happens to be Henry D’Ascoyne (Guinness), soon puts an end to that. At the end of his tether, he vows revenge.

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a lovely, intelligent and warm comedy about a man who will do anything to reclaim his birthright. Price is charmingly charismatic but it’s Guinness, playing all eight of the D’Ascoyne Family, who steals the show. He delivers an acting masterclass with great assuredness in Robert Hamer’s greatest film. Kind Hearts and Coronets is the kind of heart-warming comedy that is no longer being made.

Special Features:

  • Once More with Ealing – a brand new featurette including interviews with filmmakers Whit Stillman, Paul King, Stephen Woolley and critic Peter Bradshaw discussing their love for Ealing and the brilliant legacy of Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • Audio Commentary with Terence Davies, Peter Bradshaw and Matthew Guinness
  • Alternate US Ending + commentary
  • John Landis intro
  • BFI’s Introducing Ealing Studios
  • Those British Faces: Dennis Price
  • Behind the Scenes stills gallery
  • Costumes stills gallery.

The newly restored Kind Hearts and Coronets is re-released in cinemas on 7 June. It will be released on Collector’s edition, Blu-ray and DVD by Studiocanal as part of their Vintage Classics collection on 24 June.

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