Kind Hearts and Coronets (U)

Starring: Dennis Price, Alec Guinness

Nothing funnier ever came out of Ealing than this 1949 black comedy of murder and social advancement.

Its Edwardian setting is all elegance, but nonchalance is the key to its genius. After his mother dies, cast out and heartbroken, her son Louis (Dennis Price) vows vengeance on her aristocratic family, the D'Ascoynes: one by one he murders the relatives who stand between him and the ducal coronet. The film's coup is the virtuoso brilliance of Alec Guinness as all eight of the ill-fated D'Ascoynes, though it shouldn't overshadow the superbly feline Price as the disinherited schemer, Valerie Hobson as the high-minded widow he falls for, and Joan Greenwood as his purring nemesis. The screenplay, by Robert Hamer and John Dighton, is a model of silky malice.