Screened as part of NZIFF 2019

Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949

Directed by Robert Hamer

The classic, quintessentially British comedy of bad manners returns in a superb digital restoration. With Dennis Price as the most elegantly murderous of social climbers and Alec Guinness as all eight of his victims.

In English
106 minutes B&W / DCP



Michael Balcon
Michael Relph


Robert Hamer
John Dighton. Based on the novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman


Douglas Slocombe


Peter Tanner

Production designer

William Kellner

Costume designer

Anthony Mendleson


Ernest Irving


Dennis Price (Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini)
Alec Guinness (eight members of the D’Ascoyne family)
Valerie Hobson (Edith)
Joan Greenwood (Sibella)
Audrey Fildes (Mama)
Miles Malleson (hangman)
Clive Morton (prison governor)
John Penrose (Lionel)
Cecil Ramage (Crown counsel)
Hugh Griffith (Lord High Steward)


Venice 1949


Celebrating its 70th birthday in a pristine digital restoration, director Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets upholds its position as one of the funniest, most perfectly pitched black comedies ever made.

Dennis Price is the living embodiment of wronged entitlement as Louis Mazzini, a young draper’s assistant determined to avenge his mother’s disinheritance by ascending to dukedom. Eight other scions of the D’Ascoyne family are all that stand in his way. The incomparable Alec Guinness plays each dotty one of them, young and old, male and female.

Joan Greenwood savours every syllable as the taunting Sibella, who may or may not have a role in Louis’ murderous project, while Valerie Hobson is surprisingly touching as the one pure heart abiding in Hamer’s smouldering bonfire of vanities. — BG

“Secure in the knowledge that Guinness will return in another form, the audience suffers no regret as each abominable D’Ascoyne is coolly dispatched. And as the murderer takes us further into his confidence with each foul deed, we positively look forward to his next success.” — Pauline Kael

“Robert Hamer’s 1949 film is often cited as the definitive black, eccentric British comedy, yet it’s several cuts better than practically anything else in the genre… Hamer’s direction is bracingly cool and clipped, yet he’s able to draw something from his performers (Price has never been deeper, Guinness never more proficient, and Joan Greenwood never more softly, purringly cruel) that transcends the facile comedy of murder; there’s lyricism, passion, and protest in it too.” — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader