Will be dated for some viewers
Black and White, which does not suit all viewers
Television for Christmas 2009 in the UK has offered up its usual mass of repeats. Amongst these there have been some classics, some terrors and all too many that are just average. Many of my favourite classic films are from many years ago and, although some are dated, they rightly deserve to be called classics.
The Ealing Comedies are UK classic films from years gone by. Made in Black and White, most would be hastily turned off by younger viewers, which is such a shame. Ealing Comedies may be dated but they are still good fun.
Ealing Comedies and I
I was actually born three years after Kind Hearts and Coronets was released, in 1949. As a child, in the fifties and sixties, it was always years before films shown in the cinema, were shown on TV. After all, not everyone had access to a television set anyway.
We were quite lucky and Dad bought our first television set in 1959, when I was seven. Of course it only showed programmes in black and white and only had one, or two if you were lucky, channels. There were no videos and DVD's so you had to wait ages for favourite films to come around again or go to the cinema.
Kind and Coronets was a favourite of my Dad's and I guess I must have a similar sense of humour to him, as I have always loved this film. I first saw it when I was about ten years old and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However some of the finer points of the humour was wasted on me, a child.
I have seen this film umpteen times since and still manage to enjoy a screening, and have a laugh, despite often knowing what is coming next. As with favourite films there are always many lines which may be adopted into our own language. One of my favourite lines from this film, which I often use, is Dennis Price's comment about someone speaking 'Interminable nonsense'. How true, so often, and yet so funny.
So I shall give some detail about this film and try not to spoil it for the uninitiated reader.
The film starts with the adult Louis Mazzini. He is sat in a cell awaiting execution, which is scheduled for the next day. Dennis Price plays Louis Mazzini, whose mother comes from aristocratic birth and whose father, an opera singer, was considered to be too lowly to marry her.
Cast out by her wealthy family, she and Louis live a fairly parsimonious existence. Louis develops a great hatred for the other wealthy members of his mother's family, namely the d'Asgoyne's. When his path unfavourably crosses that of a snooty relative, he sets out on a course of vengeance. His aim is to destroy the d'Asgoynes and gain respectability and the family fortune.
The film is a black comedy set in the early 20th century, before Women had the right to vote. We are in fact treat to the sight of one of the female d'Asgoynes, in her fight for 'Votes for women' .
The film is full of irony and has become a classic along with the other Ealing comedies of the time. The British Ealing Studios produced many comedy films which are now classics.
Alec Guiness, pre the days of his knighthood, plays no less than eight members of the d'Asgoyne family, including the female suffragette. His sardonic expression and, at times, haughty voice is perfect for the roles. Dennis Price has a sufficiently charming and elegant voice, as does his first love Sybilla, the excellent Joan Greenwood. The style of the film, plus the costumes and scenery, are both stylish and fitting. The film uses language which is very much of the period and flows along at a gentle pace.
Overall, as I guess you have realised I simply love this film. Yes, it is dated but then again it was made in 1949. It still has masses of appeal with great actors and a nice twist to the film. As a tale of the differences between the classes it was probably more relevant back in the fifties but should still amuse.
Watch Kind Heart and Coronets for what it is, and you should thoroughly enjoy this film. It is suitable for most ages and can be picked up cheaply these days on DVD. If some of the copies have had colour added try to watch in the original black and white as it really fits the film much better.
The cast includes:
Valerie Hobson, who I loved in Hobson's choice also.
A young Arthur Lowe
Hugh Griffith and more.
As Alec Guiness plays so many roles, obviously there is a smaller cast than normal. It shows how versatile he was as an actor when you look at the different ages, sexes and types of individual that he plays in this film.
Sir Alec was such a success in these roles that this film put him firmly on the road to stardom.
Director - Robert Hamer
Producer - Michael Balcon.
Running Time 106 minutes.
The title, Kind Hearts and Coronets, was taken from a couplet by Tennyson, which is quoted by one of the characters-
'Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood'
When you watch the film you will realise this is very true. This film was released in France also where it was called ' Noblesse Oblige'
You can pick up a copy of Kind Hearts and Coronets very cheaply or pay a little more and buy it as part of a package of Ealing comedy films. With any luck it will be doing the rounds on TV again soon if you missed it recent airing.
If you take my advice you will make an effort to watch it and hopefully you will love it.