Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Kind Hearts and Coronets

(UK, 1949)

There are very few movies whose plot is completely turned around by the very last line. This is one. (Another is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. The original, not the piece-of-crap remake. Only the last line in Pelham is a sneeze!) And that is after a saved-at-the-last-moment twist that you think has it all wrapped up. Dennis Price plays a man raised in poverty because his snotty relatives disowned his mother for marrying an opera singer. Through some obscure law, he could become the Duke of Chalfont … but twelve other heirs stand in his way. He sets out to kill them all, and manages to off six of them—all played by Alec Guinness, plus two more who die natural deaths. Eventually he becomes the Duke. Since he is writing this from a prison cell where the hangman has just arrived, we know something has gone wrong, but … I can’t tell you the ironic way he is tripped up, nor about subsequent events. I will say that it is a masterpiece, one of the earliest and one of the best of the Ealing Comedies, which were mostly made in the early ‘50s. This is a must-see.