The Man In The White Suit

  • 1951
  • 1 HR 25 MIN
  • NR
  • Comedy

A sharp satirical comedy about the social contradictions of technology, THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT offers a tour de force by master comic Guinness. He plays Sidney Stratton, an eccentric inventor believed crazy by most except for Daphne Birnley (Greenwood), daughter of a millionaire textile king (Parker). Stratton manages to finagle access to Birnley's elaborate...read more

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A sharp satirical comedy about the social contradictions of technology, THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT offers a tour de force by master comic Guinness. He plays Sidney Stratton, an eccentric inventor believed crazy by most except for Daphne Birnley (Greenwood), daughter of a millionaire textile

king (Parker). Stratton manages to finagle access to Birnley's elaborate development laboratory, supplied with all the chemicals and equipment he requires. Although Birnley and his associates have to deal with lab explosions and the eerie gurgling of Stratton's setup, Sidney eventually comes

through, creating a fabric that never wears out and which repels dirt completely. He fashions a pristine white suit of the material and is as first hailed as a genius. Soon enough, though, the problems with the miracle material become evident. Labor dislikes poor Sidney because they'll all be put

out of work once people buy enough of these wonder suits, and management changes its attitudes when they realize they'll be put out of business by Sidney's new fashion line. Although the two opposing forces do seem to get the better of Sidney in the memorable finale, his last-second knowing smile

suggests an even greater discovery just around the corner.

THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, besides offering consistent humor and often hilarious scenes, is another minor masterpiece of acting on Guinness' part: he shows marvelous restraint that gives way to brief hysteria, emphasizing again the versatility of this astounding actor. Greenwood, meanwhile, with

her striking eyes, haughty yet vaguely haunted manner and that one-of-a-kind voice, is at her peak, parrying comic thrusts with great aplomb. The reliable Parker shines yet again as the worried capitalist and, on the proletarian side, the forceful Hope and the adorable Edie Martin are especially

outstanding. Special mention should also be made of Thesiger, that unique comic talent from several James Whale masterworks of the 1930s. He is wonderful here as the decrepit but all-powerful industrial czar who decrees Sidney's fate for the sake of business. In addition to the laughs, this film

also indicts the ruthless and manipulative ways of businessmen. The acerbic social criticism lacing the film, however, does not exclude union representatives either, and the result is an intelligently rounded satire. Mackendrick's formidable gifts as both director and screenwriter are on vivid

display here.

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