Monday, 10 August 2009

Kind Hearts and Coronets

1949 - Dir.: Robert Hamer

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th April, 2002

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a black comedy, presented in a coolly elegant style with the most articulate and literate of all Ealing screenplays. The title was taken from a Tennysonian couplet quoted by one of the characters: 'Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood'; in France the film was called Noblesse Oblige. lt was based on a novel by Roy Horniman published early in the century called Israel Rank, but the film credits do not betray the title - perhaps because another Rank (J.Arthur) had provided the major part of the film's finance as well as its British distribution. Dennis Price's cool headed murderer carries the narrative but Alec Guinness steals the show playing no less than eight members of the same family. Look out for Arthur Lowe - it was to be twenty five years before Captain Mainwaring made him a household name.
The ending is ambiguous but leaves us under the impression that Louis might just get away with it. Such a possibility offended the Johnston Office in America which administered the production code, one of the strictest rules of which was that crime must not be seen to pay. So an additional and aesthetically displeasing scene was appended to the American print in which the incriminating article is seen in the hands of the authorities.

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