Kind Hearts and Coronets

The whimsical mid-century comedies from Ealing Studio are jewels in the crown of English cinema. And glimmering blackly near the top is this wicked little charmer that devises as many ingenious ways as it can of killing off Alec Guinness. The actor fiendishly plays all eight heirs to the D’Ascoyne title — even the raging suffragette Lady Agatha, who dies in a hot-air-balloon disaster masterminded by Price, a disinherited shop attendant bent on knocking off all the D’Ascoynes and ascending to the dukedom. Kind Hearts and Coronet‘s literate, merry script stays spiky as an arrowhead, even as the conceit goes a little soft in the second half, when there are, unfortunately, fewer Guinnesses to go around. EXTRAS Two plums: a pleasant 1977 BBC talk-show chat where Guinness tells of a chilling encounter with James Dean and his new silver Porsche Spyder a week before the legendary crash; and an informative 1986 TV doc on the studio that calls Kind Hearts ”Ealing’s masterpiece” — a superlative we’d reserve instead for 1952’s Lavender Hill Mob.

Kind Hearts and Coronets
  • Movie
  • 109 minutes