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Kind Hearts and Coronets Alec Guinness gets to die eight times, playing a line of successors to a dukedom, in the Ealing black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is ninth in line to inherit the dukedom from the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family. Louis vows to kill all eight people who stand between him and the duke's title. Aside from two cases of natural causes, Louis works through the list, eliminating rivals (all played by Guinness). Along the way he romances Sibella (Joan Greenwood), a childhood friend who ends up marrying a dullard, and Edith (Valerie Hobson), the beautiful widow of one of his victims with whom he plans to share his title. But just when Louis is ready to assume the D'Ascoyne mantle, a bizarre irony strikes. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
The Captain's Paradise In this bright British comedy, we meet Capt. Henry St. James (Alec Guinness) as he stands before a firing squad and then learn of the curious chain of events that brought him to his fate. Henry is a ship's captain ferrying a steamer between Gibraltar and North Africa on a regular basis, and he's taken the notion of "a girl in every port" to a whole new level; he has a wife on each side of the water. In Gibraltar, there's Maude (Celia Johnson), an even-tempered housewife who keeps the house tidy and has dinner ready when Henry likes it. In North Africa, mate number two is Nita (Yvonne DeCarlo), who is a sultry fun seeker who likes to hit the nightspots and dance 'till dawn. Between the two of them, Henry would seem to have the best of both worlds; Chief Officer Ricco (Charles Goldner) openly envies Henry's remarkable romantic situation. But things start to go sour when Maude suddenly decides she's a stick in the mud and wants to start living it up, while Nita becomes a homebody and begins learning to cook; Henry is none too happy about either development, and before long he finds he has no spouse on either shore. The Captain's Paradise was trimmed from 93 to 84 minutes for its initial United States release. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
The Lavender Hill Mob Charles Crichton directed this Ealing caper comedy, with a witty script by T.E.B. Clarke that won an Academy Award. Alec Guinness is Henry Holland, an unassuming transporter of gold bullion who, after working for twenty years with no rewards in sight for his faithful service to his company, decides to reward himself by stealing one million pounds worth of gold. Calling on his old friend Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), a manufacturer of paperweights and an amateur sculptor, and a couple of Cockney crooks, Lackery (Sidney James) and Shorty (Alfie Bass), they conspire to lift a gold shipment. After absconding with the gold, Henry melts the gold into a collection of souvenir Eiffel Towers, which he then ships off to Paris. But chaos reigns when a group of English schoolgirls purchase the gold towers, and the gang now become embroiled in a wild goose chase to recover their stolen gold. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
The Ladykillers Music professor Alec Guinness rents a London flat from sweet old lady Katie Johnson. He tells her that, from time to time, several other musicians will visit in order to rehearse. In truth, Guinness can't play a note, nor can his visitors: he's a criminal mastermind, holding court over a gang of thieves, including the likes of punkish Peter Sellers, homicidal Herbert Lom and punchdrunk Danny Green. The gang uses Guinness' flat as headquarters as they conceive a daring 60,000 pound robbery. After pulling off the job, the gang stuffs the loot in a railway station locker. To avoid detection, Guinness convinces the ever-trusting Johnson to pick up the money. Through a series of comic complications, Johnson returns home with a police escort, with neither the woman nor the bobbies suspecting that she's carrying a fortune in her suitcase. Mistakenly believing that Johnson has ratted on them, the gang reluctantly plans to eliminate her. The Ladykillers won an Oscar nomination for William Rose's screenplay, and a BFA award for veteran character actress Johnson. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Man in the White Suit Alec Guinness has one of his finest comic roles in this Ealing satirical comedy about a much patronized amateur scientist whose latest invention creates an uproar in the British textile industry. In the British manufacturing country of Northern England, factory owner Michael Corland (Michael Gough) is showing competitor Alan Bimley (Cecil Parker) around his plant, hoping to borrow some money and marry off his daughter Daphne (Joan Greenwood). They come upon a curious contraption that turns out to be an experiment by employee Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness). Being a lower class worker, Sidney is summarily fired from his job. Sidney ends up working at Bimley's factory, where he is befriended by militant worker Bertha (Vida Hope). Daphne spots Sidney at the factory and he explains to her the results of his experiment -- a material that is indestructible and impervious to dirt. Bimley discovers this project and throws Sidney out. But Daphne, impressed by his experiments, funds Sidney, installing him in his own laboratory. After a few false starts, Sidney develops a pure white material that can't be dirtied or ruined. But it seems Sidney's invention is too brilliant and effective; if a material is marketed that will last forever, textile mills will go out of business and workers will lose their jobs. Suddenly, poor, luckless Sidney has both management and labor banding together to combat his new invention. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
Cast & Crew
Dennis Price - Louis Mazzini
Alec Guinness - Admiral d'Ascoyne, Ascoyne d'Ascoyne, Canon d'Ascoyne, Duke of Chalfont