Currently playing on MUBI in the United States as part of a mini Ealing Comedies series, Kind Hearts and Coronets is often considered Ealing Studios’ greatest achievement (it ranked at number six in the British Film Institute’s 1999 poll of the Best British Films of All Time). It was released in 1949 within the same two months as two other Ealing classics: Passport to Pimlico and Whisky Galore. All three were nominated for the 1949 British Academy Award for Best British Film, though all three lost out to The Third Man.
A dark yet breezy satire of class and mores in Edwardian Britain, in which a dispossessed aristocrat plans to wipe out the line of succession to the dukedom he believes is his, one upper class twit at a time, Kind Hearts is most notable for Alec Guinness’s bravura turn as nine different characters (he was originally offered four roles and he loved the script so much he said “why four, why not eight?”). From the original posters for the film, however—the British quad below and the US poster above—it seems that the Guinness gimmick was not the major marketing point for the film that it became when the film was re-released in later years. Prominent in the earliest posters, the main character played by Dennis Price and his female co-stars are later eclipsed, especially in international posters, by the eight Guinnesses.
In France and Belgium the film was released as “Noblesse Oblige” which is the also translation of the German (“ Adel Verpflichtet”) and Polish (“Szlachectwo Zobowiazuje”) titles. In Spain the film was called “Eight Death Sentences” (“Ocho sentencias de muerte”) while for some reason the Danes called it “Seven Small Sins” (“Syv små synder”). And in Italy it was called “Blue Blood” (“Sangue Blu”) though in the wonderful Photobustas below it was remarked as “Mister Murders” (“Mister Omicidi”) implying that Guinness played the murderer rather than the victims.
All of these are wonderful, but the Danish, Italian and two German posters by the two Hanses (Hillmann and Edelman) are especially good.
See the full Ealing Comedies MUBI line-up here.