Saturday, October 23, 2010

Better than The Ladykillers

A month ago, I mentioned my thought that I didn't find The Ladykillers to be as good as it's cracked up to be. You can judge for yourself, though, as it's airing as part of a night of Alec Guinness movies, early tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM ET. In the post last month, I also mentioned The Lavender Hill Mob, which precedes it at 3:15 AM. As I've already blogged about it before, today's post will be on the other of the three movies I listed in the September post: Kind Hearts and Coronets, which is tonight's TCM Essential at 8:00 PM.

The movie starts off with Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) in prison, awaiting his execution, as the Duke of D'Ascoyne. He wasn't born to be the Duke, however, and therein lies quite a tale. His connection to the family is through his mother, who would have been the rightful heir, except that she fell in love with an Italian opera singer and ran off to marry him, which caused the noble line of the family to disown her and make all of her children ineligible for the peerage. Mother instills in her son a sense of having been wronged, and he keeps a family tree of the D'Ascoynes, tracking where he would be in the line of succession if he were eligibile.

It turns out there are eight candidates ahead of him, and worse, some of them insist on reproducing, making it even less likely that Louis could ever inherit the dukedom he believes is rightly his. However, one day he gets a brilliant idea! If only there were some way for all those other heirs to die, they'd have to give the dukedom to him. And so, Louis sets out to murder the heirs, one by one. The conceit of the movie is that all eight of the heirs are played by Alec Guinness -- including a lady suffragette! Eventually, all of the legitimate D'Ascoynes die, and Louis becomes the Duke, but along the way, he's gotten himself into a love triangle involving one of the D'Ascoyne widows (Valerie Hobson) and his girlfriend from his lower-class upbringing (Joan Greenwood).

Alec Guinness, playing eight characters, is the highlight of the movie, but he's helped enormously by an intelligent and fun script. It's a delight to watch.

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