A review of Kind Hearts and Coronets is almost superfluous because everyone has seen the film once or twice and takes it in again on its semi-annual visit to the Brattle. But perhaps a short panegyric would still be in order.
The film, of course, revolves upon Alec Guinness's amazing display of virtuoso acting, as he plays seven different and distinct characters including the lead. Completely British in tone, Mr. Guinness underplays each role with a delightfully droll, often satirical, humor which never over-extends itself or tries too hard to be guffawingly funny.
For a plot, it seems that a black sheep of the noble family of D'Ascoyne, born in humble surroundings, but brought up with the vision of the high state he descended from constantly before him, makes up his mind to revenge himself and his mother for the high-handedness of their treatment by doing in all the members in the succession to his dukedom. And all this is brought to pass with the typical Guinness finesse. He plays all the deceased members of the family, as well as the intrepid hero. Most wonderful for its charitable satire is his portrayal of the doddering Anglican clergyman of the clan of D'Ascoyne who is rather too fond of his port. But most of the other of Mr. Guinness's creations are equally memorable. He has managed to pack the essence of Guinness in these roles which reflect his range from the Lavender Hill Mob to Captain's Paradise. Also engaging is Joan Greenwood as the calculating young lady who engages at least part of our hero's affections.
Toward the end of the film the situation becomes slightly overworked and perhaps too fantastic. The script did not take the time to develop the murderers and personalities quite so carefully, and was forced to gather together all the fantastic nonsense which the film so charmingly perpetrates. But the ending is in good Guinness style.
All in all, Kind Hearts is the very best of good English comedy and well deserves its reknown and affection.