Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1949: Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NBR, for portraying the D'Ascoyne family including the Duke, the Banker, the Parson, the General, the Admiral, Young Ascoyne, Young Henry, and Lady Agatha.

Well with a performance like this where the great Alec Guinness plays eight different roles I might as well go role by role here starting with the first to be murdered Young Ascoyne. Guinness makes Ascoyne to be a distant young man who doesn't look anyone in the face particular not someone like Louis Mazzini who he considers below him. Guinness creates a self absorbed individual clearly always reflecting on only what he cares about to the extent that he does not even notice that a man is stalking him. Guinness instantly establishes this personality so brilliantly through that aloof physical demeanor, as well as cold refined manner of speaking.

Next up we see just how brilliant Alec Guinness is in his performance through his portrayal of the young Henry who is almost the exact opposite of Ascoyne. We first see him intrigued by Louis Mazzini pretending to be interested with photography which is Henry main pursuit. Henry very happily greets Mazzini and Guinness allows Henry to be a very outgoing chap. He is a smiling fellow with a charming manner that instantly welcomes Louis into his company, which is helped especially through the David Niven like accent he gives the young man. Guinness is amazing in the way he was so cold in the last Ascoyne could be exchanged for warmth with Henry. Henry is welcoming in just about every aspect from the great smile Guinness gives him to the way he looks Louis directly without reservations. Guinness does not stop there and subtly suggests there is a little hesitations in Henry. This is not in terms of being friendly, but rather hesitations involving his drinking which his straight laced wife would not approve of. Guinness handles this weakness of Henry in conveying a certain subtle shyness about the matter in public, but exchanged with quite the enjoyment of it when in private. It is a terrific supporting turn all on its own and particularly compelling when compared to how he portrayed the young Ascoyne.

We also meet the Banker who is also the father of the young Ascoyne, and here we see the first of the many other elder D'Ascoynes played by Guinness. Guinness as the banker once again makes a large statement on the character of the Banker simply through the physicality. In this case he shows a world worn man through his slow manner, although once again suggests his refined background through the general proper manner of moving. In this case Guinness plays the banker as a man who may have been as pompous as the rest but now has changed due to the death of his son. In his behavior Guinness emphasizes the grief in the banker showing that he is a haunted man in his sorrowful expressions and his quiet shaken voice. Guinness actually manages to suggest that sadness in the man is what enables him to be friendlier to Louis than he most likely would have been otherwise.

The next group of four actually are almost entirely for humorous effect. This is just fine of course, but Guinness does not stop making each a unique character in each case. One of these is the Parson D'Ascoyne. As the Parson Guinness makes him a bit of daffy old timer who is used to going on and on in his sermons and his stories. He plays this part wonderfully well and with much hilarity as he portrays the old man with his unique way of speaking like he is always delivering with that slow specific sermon delivery. Guinness is entirely believable as this old man, and could have done a whole film with this character frankly. He is a great deal of fun in the role and is particularly funny in his reaction to Louis's not particularly well thought out cover story. It is outstanding display from Guinness as he effortlessly creates the old parsons character, and manages to get these funny moments out well still respecting the characterization.

There is also the Admiral and the General who are probably the closest in style which makes sense considering they are both military men. In both cases Guinness plays a controlled aspect to the men fitting of their profession they are proper in stance and manner even as older men. Both are fairly quick characters but in it just enough for a very amusing moment for each of them to have. Guinness is great as the firm Admiral who keeps his proper stance as he barks a foolish order that causes his ship to crash,. Guinness makes the fact that Admiral chooses to stay on board, despite everyone else safely leaving , especially hilarious thanks to that same steadfast expression on his face as the Admiral slowly sinks underwater while giving a salute.

Although similar Guinness adjusts enough to make both the General and the Admiral unique to their own purpose. With the General Guinness also makes him an old man who still is keen on keeping his ways as a soldier. Although the difference comes in as Guinness suggests the disastrous campaigns the General was responsible for way on him a little bit from his tight expression to his spent eyes and voice. Again this is a quick one but Guinness portrayal suggests the good old soldier here perfectly. This allows it to be very funny as the General goes on with the story he has told a 1000 times only to blown up by a bomb in a caviar jar before he can continue on with his ways.

The least special of Guinness's performance here is definitely that of portraying Agatha D'Ascoyne, that is because he does not even get a line and this one is mostly based on the visual of Alec Guinness in a dress. Guinness still gives it his all in his portrayal of Agatha. He is quite funny though in his expressions still when he shows great glee in Agatha as she smashes windows, or flies in a hot balloon to promote her feminist cause. Her appearance is brief and asks the least of Guinness, but he still handles it especially well since he doesn't choose this time to ridiculously overact or anything else. He still goes about being funny through the character even in this briefest of circumstances.

Then there is the Duke who is there for more than a laugh as he represents the patrician manner of the D'Ascoynes that lead them to disown Louis's mother. Guinness handles this so well that with his scenes as the Duke I honestly completely forgot about Guinness playing all the roles. He is perfect as the Duke exemplifying a very certain type of aristocrat. The way he walks to the way he talks, to even the way he stands expresses perfectly the man's upbringing and life. Everything Guinness does in this role suggests a man who is very much assured of superiority. This snobbishness works particularly well because of how cold and nonchalant Guinness is in his portrayal of it. He allows us to easily see how the Duke would have been so cruel to disown Louis's mother without even a second thought about it. He again makes him a different type of older man than the other through that manner in which he does everything that is brought in an entirely natural fashion by Guinness that only every works in expressing the qualities of the Duke. Guinness is able to make this Duke the certain vain, prideful, and pompous man quickly yet entirely effectively.

Guinness gives a remarkable set of performances in this film and it is unlikely that any actor could have handled this set of roles as well as Guinness does. What is so incredible about this performance is the way he manages to be visible and invisible in the role. Although it is obvious the film wants us to know Guinness is playing everyone, as there is a scene that pans from one D'Ascoyne to the next, Guinness manages to fully invest himself in each character making each of the D'Ascoyne's their own. He is able to become each character with a outstanding degree of ease considering the circumstances, and having each of the characters stand out in the way they need to through his stunning ability to create a particular voice and physical style for each. This is a great great great great great great great great performance by Alec Guinness as he succeeds with this very large challenge well making it look easy the entire time.

4 comments:

RatedRStar said...

you know Louis, theres these actors that were never really regarded as like heartthrobs who men and women fancyed or hollywood types, people like Alec Guinness, George C Scott, Gary Oldman. These actors dont really get enough credit and they should because they are like well, skillful is the word I would use.

I saw Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers not too long ago and I think you would absolutely love him in it Louis its really a comedy classic from Guinness up there with his other comedy classics,

As for George C Scott, I saw him in Dr Strangelove only about 20 minutes ago, and wow I think I may have become a fan of him lol =D I actually think the best performance in the film and the one that stuck with me in that film was Scott, even though I thought Sellers was great as usual, awesome review as always.

nick wingerter said...

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RatedRStar said...

I cant Nick because it doesnt let me put my name in, do what Louis does and add the Name/URL identity on and ill be able too =D.

nick wingerter said...

Try it now