Director: Robert Hamer
“It is sophisticated, deliciously sly, and resolved with another Ealing trademark, the smart sting in the tale.” (242, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) I didn’t quite get the humor of Kind Hearts and Coronets. Consequently I didn’t laugh at all, not even once. it just didn’t really register with me and the only thing I took away from the film was the performance by Alec Guinness. I only ever really associate Guinness with Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) or The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) so it’s nice to be reminded he was more than just an iconic character.
“All eight of the clearly inbred, dotty D’Ascoynes – including the hatchet-faced suffrage the Lady Agatha who is shot down in a balloon, the bluff general condemned to short-lived enjoyment of an explosive pot of caviar, and the insane admiral who does Mazzini’s job for him by going down with his ship – are famously played by Ealing’s man of a thousand faces, unrecognizable from one film to the next (and in this case from one scene to the next), the delightful Alec Guinness.” (242) He really is masterful, creating 8 very separate and distinct characters, not all of which are male either! Each one is full of idiosyncrasies making the most of the perceived (and oft evidenced) eccentricity of the English gentry.
It’s one of those films whose name I have always known but never seen, and a film spoken about in almost reverential terms. And as usual when it comes to me and classics (be they films, novels or music) I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was okay but I didn’t find it funny (to the point that had I not known it was a comedy I wouldn’t have guessed it was that genre). Even though the narrative follows the exploits of a character who is, when it comes down to it, a serial killer the film is a light-hearted one. Maybe the humor just hasn’t translated through the years very well.
The lead, and very much the central character, who holds the entire film together played by Dennis Price, was someone I found wholly forgettable rather unfortunately. He just did not stand out at all and I found him fading into the background on a number of occasions even when there were few characters in the scene.
And although this film reminded me just how remarkable an actor Alec Guinness truly was – one who is so much more than a wise Jedi Master – he will forever be Obi Wan Kenobi to me. You just can’t remove the impact that character had on me when I was younger. Kind Hearts and Coronets is not a film I will be watching again.