Sunday, 29 April 2018

Kind Hearts and Coronets

"Kind hearts are more than coronets
And simple faith than Norman blood."
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the leading poet of the Victorian age.

"When she marries for love, a woman is disinherited by her titled family. After her husband's death, she struggles to raise her son Louis (Dennis Price), always reminding him that he has been cheated out of a dukedom. The death of Louis's mother, an insult from a cousin, and rejection by his sweetheart Sibella all lead Louis to plan to kill the rival heirs to the title (all played by Sir Alec Guinness. He sets about his mission carefully, getting to know each of his relatives (who don't know who he really is) before murdering them." - M. Faust, Common Sense Media.

Directed by Robert Hamer, 1949
Based on the novel by Roy Horniman

Screenplay by Robert Hamer and John Dighton
Screenplay revisions by Nancy Mitford (uncredited)

Louis Mazzini's mother belongs to the aristocratic family D'Ascoyne, but she ran away with an opera singer. Therefore, she and Louis were rejected by the D'Ascoynes. Once adult, this distant poor relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne decides to avenge his mother by becoming the next Duke of the family. Murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.

Starring Dennis Price as Louis, Valerie Hobson as Edith, Joan Greenwood as Sibella and Alec Guinness as the D'Ascoyne Family: The Duke / The Banker / The Parson / The General / The Admiral / Young Ascoyne / Young Henry / Lady Agatha


~ FILM ~

[first lines]

Warder in Jail: Good evening, Mr. Elliot.
The Hangman: Good evening.


Murder on his mind. Dennis Price stars as a distant heir to a dukedom intent on dispatching all the relatives keeping him from his inheritance in the black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets.


Louis Mazzini: I made an oath that I would revenge the wrongs her family had done her. It was no more than a piece of youthful bravado, but it was one of those acorns from which great oaks are destined to grow. Even then I went so far as to examine the family tree and prune it to just the living members. But what could I do to hurt them? What could I take from them, except, perhaps, their lives.

Sibella: Lionel will be very rich one day.
Louis Mazzini: I might be a duke one day.
Sibella: Pigs might fly.
Louis Mazzini: No, I might. Really I might. You see, Mama was the daughter...
Sibella: [yawning] Oh yes, I know. Well, when you are a duke, you just come and show me your... crown, or whatever it's called, and then I'll feel awfully silly won't I?


Louis Mazzini: I couldn't help feeling that even Sibella's capacity for lying was going to be taxed to the utmost. Time had brought me revenge on Lionel, and as the Italian proverb says, revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold.

Sibella: What would you say if she asked you about me?
Louis Mazzini: I'd say that you were the perfect combination of imperfections. I'd say that your nose was just a little too short, your mouth just a little too wide. But yours was a face that a man could see in his dreams for the whole of his life. I'd say that you were vain, selfish, cruel, deceitful. I'd say that you were adorable. I'd say that you were...Sibella.
Sibella: What a pretty speech.
Louis Mazzini: I mean it.
Sibella: [seductively] Come and say it to me again.

Sibella: Oh, the Italian men are so handsome...but I could never get away from Lionel for a moment. But, I was forgetting... you're Italian.
Louis Mazzini: Half.


Louis Mazzini: It was not a piece of news that I was looking forward to breaking to Sibella. She had no rights in the matter, but women have a disconcerting ability to make scenes out of nothing and approve themselves injured when they themselves are at fault.

Louis Mazzini: [after murdering his cousin along with his cousin's mistress] I was sorry about the girl, but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably during the weekend already undergone a fate worse than death.

[Louis Mazzini just murdered his relative, Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne, who was distributing suffragette literature from a balloon over London]

Louis Mazzini: I shot an arrow in the air; she fell to earth in Berkeley Square.

"Sang doesn’t come much more froid than in Ealing Studios’ tartest and perhaps most sophisticated achievement: ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ is at once a witty comedy of manners, a grotesque serial-killer caper and an acerbic satire on the class system. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), scion of the D’Ascoyne clan by blood but denied his ducal due on account of his mother’s marriage to an Italian commoner, sets out to murder his way to the title he considers his birthright. His targets – all eight of them – are played by Alec Guinness in a succession of beautifully wrought miniature turns, from bibulous cleric to strident suffragette. But it’s Price who holds the piece together, endowing Louis with a feline mix of charm, taste and ruthlessness that anticipates Tom Ripley and Hannibal Lecter; as in their stories, the general ghastliness of everyone else makes it all the easier to root for his success. Credit is also due to Robert Hamer for his elegant direction and a screenplay (adapted from Roy Horniman’s novel) that is lean, sprightly and bristling with thorns." - Ben Walters, Time Out, 2011.

Louis Mazzini: While I never admired Edith as much as when I was with Sibella, I never longed for Sibella as much as when I was with Edith.


Sibella: I've married the dullest man in London.
Louis Mazzini: In England!
Sibella: In Europe!

Louis Mazzini: The next morning I went out shooting with Ethelred - or rather, to watch Ethelred shooting; for my principles will not allow me to take a direct part in blood sports.

Louis Mazzini: I want to talk to you for a minute. If you make a noise, I shall blow your head off at once. By the time anyone has heard the shot I shall be running back toward the castle shouting for help. I shall say that you stepped on the trap and your gun went off as you fell. So be quiet.

[lights cigarette]

Louis Mazzini: When I've finished I shall kill you. You will be the sixth D'Ascoyne that I've killed. You want to know why? In return for what the D'Acoyne's did to my mother. Because she married for love instead of for rank or money or land. They condemed her to a life of poverty and slavery, in a world for which they had not equipped her to deal. You yourself refused to grant her dying wish, which was to be buried here, at Chalfont. When I saw her poor little coffin slide underground, saw her exiled in death as she had been in life, I swore to have revenge on your intolerable pride. That revenge I am just about to complete.

Louis Mazzini: I considered it both seemly and touching that my dear wife should visit me as she did this morning, to make her farewells. Your arrival on the other hand, appears to me unseemly and tasteless in the extreme.
Sibella: I couldn't bear my last sight of you to be that look of hatred you gave me as you went out from the trial.
Louis Mazzini: In view of the fact that your evidence had put the rope around my neck, you could hardly expect a glance of warm affection.

Sibella: All of your cousins seem to get killed. I really wouldn't be the least surprised if you murdered them all.

[last lines]

Tit Bits reporter: Your grace. I represent the magazine Tit Bits by whom I'm commissioned to approach you for the publication rights of your memoirs.
Louis Mazzini: My memoirs? Oh, my memoirs. My memoirs. My memoirs!

[Mazzini suddenly realises that he has left his memoirs, in which he confesses to killing all his relatives, in the condemned cell after being released from prison]


The Parson: The port is with you.

Watch it!

Because Google and YouTube are engaged in a concerted campaign to deprive us of our rich heritage.

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