Man In The White Suit, The (Ealing 1951, Alec Guiness)

The Man In The White Suit

Sir Alec Guinness plays Sidney Stratton in delightfully wicked Ealing satire of British industry The Man In The White Suit. Stratton is a textile laboratory drone whose life is lacking excitement until he hits upon a winning formula, in the form of a fibre that will neither take dirt, nor wear out. The perfect formula yes – but one that brushes both management and unions up the wrong way, as they realise it will soon put them out of business. Sidney is denounced as a menace, and the invention proves flawed: but in indomitable Ealing spirit, he is determined to begin again.

Alexander Mackendrick, responsible for three other splendid Ealing comedies ( Whisky Galore! , The Maggie and The Ladykillers has managed to create here Ealing’s most pertinent and most haunting satire, a comedy as dreamlike and cutting as anything by the French master René Clair ; and the superb script was nominated for an Oscar.

The Man In The White Suit

No other British movie, not even the Boulting Brothers’ I’m All Right, Jack , got so far under the skin of the unspoken conspiracy between the two sides of British industry. Guinness is brilliantly understated as the unworldly scientist, Joan Greenwood adorable as the privileged girl pretending to be seduced by technical lingo, and that old gargoyle Ernest Thesiger gives his best turn as a decrepit industrialist summoned in vain to frighten stalwart Sidney.

UK / 1951

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Writers: Roger MacDougall, John Dighton, Alexander Mackendrick, from MacDougall’s play

Cast: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Ernest Thesiger, Vida Hope, Miles Malleson, Howard Marion Crawford, John Rudling, Patric Doonan, Colin Gordon