Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949): British Black Comedy Starring Alec Guinness

Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer, is considered to be by some critics the finest British comedy ever made.

Like many of its kind, it displays a peculiar but effective blend of dark humor, charm (in both the text and acting) and some menace, real or imagined.

Kind Hearts and Coronets is also known as the film that catapulted Alec Guinness into an international star, released as it was after Great Expectations and Oliver Twist.

In this black comedy, scripted by Robert Hamer and John Dighton (based on the novel by Roy Homiman, titled Israel Bank), Guinness plays eight different characters, all members of the same family.

The tale is set circa 1900, when Lois Mazzini (Dennis Price) is about to become a duke, but he is treated as a pariah due to his mother’s bad marriage. Angry and ambitious, he decides to do everything and anything in his power to get the title, including killing his relatives.

This black comedy, replete with witty dialogue, sharp and quotable one-liners, such as “Revenge is the dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold”), and great performances, “Kind Hearts and Coronets” has withstood extremely well the test of time.