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The Man in the White Suit (1952)

A movie directed by Alexander Mackendrick

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Gurgling Imagination

  • Jun 26, 2003
I recently purchased The Horse's Mouth (1958) from Amazon as well as "The Alec Guinness Collection" which includes The Man in the White Suit (1951) plus four others: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Captain's Paradise (1953), and The Ladykillers (1955). Frankly, I was amazed how well each of the six films has held up since I first saw it.

Directed by Alexander MacKendrick (who also directed The Ladykillers four years later), what we have in The Man in the White Suit is Guinness' own version of the naive, indeed eccentric visionary/inventor/humanitarian. Sidney Stratton's dream is to create a fabric which never wears out and cannot be soiled. Endless (sometimes explosive) experiments involving various gurgling contraptions prove unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Stratton is fired from his job in one research laboratory, continues his research in another, and eventually succeeds. Or so he thinks.

One of these film's several delights is Joan Greenwood's portrayal of Daphne Birnley, daughter of the owner of the company in whose laboratory Stratton finally discovers the correct formula for the miracle fabric. Her father is played with great style by Cecil Parker who is almost as eager to marry off his daughter as he is to save his company. Only a spoilsport would reveal the climax of this entertaining film, one which may surprise viewers as much as it does Stratton and Alan Birnley. Sadder but wiser, Stratton ambles (as only Guinness can) into an uncertain future. Nowhere else throughout the plot is the special soundtrack more effective than it is in this final scene.

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More The Man in the White Suit (195... reviews
review by . April 24, 2011
Sidney Stratton and his superior suits
"Now that calm and sanity have returned to the textile industry, I find it my duty to reveal something of the true story behind the recent crisis...a story which we were happily able to keep out of the newspapers at the time." –Alan Birnley       "Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What about my bit of washing when there's no washing to do?" –Mrs. Watson       The Man in the White Suit starts with …
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Robert Morris ()
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Ealing comedy--cozy, gentle, and whimsical, right? In this case, think again. Alexander Mackendrick was always the most politically aware of the Ealing directors, and inThe Man in the White Suit(1952) he takes the studio's favorite theme of the little man up against the system and gives it a sharp satirical twist. Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness at his most unworldly), a maverick scientist working in a textile mill, invents a fabric that never gets dirty and never wears out. He's hailed as a genius--until management and unions alike realize what his brainwave implies. Mackendrick's humor is exact and pointed, and the satire turns savage as a lynch mob of bosses and workers hunt Sidney down through dark, narrow streets. Mackendrick's disenchanted view of class-ridden British society still rings horribly true, and he draws note-perfect performances from the cream of British character actors: Cecil Parker as the liberal mill owner (based, it's said, on Ealing boss Michael Balcon); Ernest Thesiger as the evil old godfather of the industry; and, wittily sensual as Sidney's confidante, the ever-wonderful Joan Greenwood. Plus, listen out for the "voice" of Sidney's bizarre apparatus, the funniest and most unforgettable sound effect ever devised.--Philip Kemp
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DVD Release Date: September 10, 2002
Runtime: 85 minutes
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
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"Gurgling Imagination"
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