The Man in the White Suit (1949)

Directed by Alexander MacKendrick

This is a great, brilliantly paced comedy. The Man in the White Suit is part slapstick, a lot of satire, and considerable wit. (It is part of the Alec Guinness Collection.)

Playing Stanley Stratton, a head-in-the-clouds scientist, Alec Guinness secretly uses the research facilities of textile companies to work on a secret formula for an indestructible clothing fibre that never gets dirty.

As it turns out, he eventually finds success. But the response to his discovery is not quite what he expects, and certainly not what he feels it deserves.

Stratton and his discovery become the focus of a number of self-interested parties, which brings the satire, with clear political overtones, into the film. The capitalists are terrified of his indestructible fibre because of its potential impact on the textile industry and their profits. The workers (represented by the union) are equally determined to put a lid on the discovery since they see it as representing lost jobs.

In the end, capitalists and workers unite to try and cover up Stratton’s discovery to keep the world ignorant of this great boon. It plays as a wonderful satire of the self-interest behind management and unions.

However, the movie is primarily a wonderful comedy. The slapstick humour that informs it, and the great pacing keep it moving quickly and, as usual, Guinness’ performance as the innocent scientist is priceless.

Of the five movies that make up the Alec Guinness Collection, this one is probably my favourite.

The Alec Guinness Collection:

  • Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • Lavender Hill Mob
  • The Man in the White Suit
  • The Captain’s Paradise
  • The Ladykillers

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