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The Man in the White Suit (1952)

Alec Guinness , Joan Greenwood , Alexander Mackendrick  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Ernest Thesiger
  • Directors: Alexander Mackendrick
  • Writers: Alexander Mackendrick, John Dighton, Roger MacDougall
  • Producers: Michael Balcon, Sidney Cole
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Anchor Bay / Studio Canal
  • DVD Release Date: September 10, 2002
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006FMAV
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,195 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Man in the White Suit" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

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 in The 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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Than a Comedy May 5, 2003
Since there is already an excellent plot synopsis, and good reviews, I have just a few comments. In selecting acting roles, Alec Guinness clearly felt that variety was the spice of life !
"The Man in the White Suit" is a brilliant, but very eccentric scientist, and Guinness is of course terrific in the lead. As always, Cecil Parker is fine in support, and Joan Greenwood, with her breathy, seductive voice, is wonderful. As other reviewers have noted, watch for Ernest Thesiger as "Sir John"--in just a few scenes he manages to convey pure evil and greed very convincingly.
While this film has humour, it is not quite a comedy in the usual sense. Its various themes and messages ring true even today. "Planned obsolescence" is as much a part of modern manufacturing as it has ever been. The possibility of a product that never wears out and will never need to be replaced is every big business' worst nightmare, and hardly good news for labour either. This comes across in the movie, and in 2003 I don't expect that the reaction would be any different. We have been hearing about engines that run on solar power or even water for years--guess how much "big oil" is going to let that happen ? !
The movie has a number of unforgettable scenes, including the climax where Guinness is cornered by the mob of workers and capitalists, united in their fear. The ending is as upbeat as one could expect, without compromising the seriousness of the theme.
The picture quality of the DVD is fine, especially for a 52-year old film.
If you like classic movies that are aimed at your brain, as well as your funny-bone, "The Man in the White Suit" fills the bill.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ealing black comedy on industry & technology November 26, 2005
By Bomojaz
Yet another madcap Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness as a scientist who invents a fabric that won't soil or wear out. Realizing that such a fabric would spell ruin for the whole textile industry, the company wants Guinness to sign over the invention to them so they can suppress it. He, of course, wants it known to the whole world: it's his ticket to fame.

Quite a tug-of-war develops between Guinness and the government henchmen involving chases, bribery, kidnapping, and other lunacies. But it all comes to naught when the lasting qualities of the fabric prove to be defective. Guinness is wonderful and the script is taut and hilarious. It's a neat little black comedy on industrialism vs. the entrepeneur. From that devilish smile on Guinness's face at the end, it looks like the battle goes on. Terrific fun; definitely worth a watch.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sly, Gentle And Very Funny Satire March 16, 2005
"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."

"Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What about my bit of washing when there's no washing to do?"

The movie starts with the first quote and almost, but not quite, ends with the second. In between is one of the funniest and best-made of comedies. In post-war Britain, Sidney Stratton is a young man with a passion for chemistry and an obsession with creating his "long molecule." With this he'll be able to create a fabric that is indestructible and will never need cleaning. It will be a blessing for humanity. But Stratton keeps getting fired from his jobs, which always are at places where he can secretly set up his chemical experiments. At last, through wonderful confusions, he finds himself running a giant laboratory at Birnley Mills; he has the support of the delicious daughter (Joan Greenwood) of the owner; and he succeeds in creating his fabric. At first the mill's owner, Alan Birnley, can barely suppress his glee. His mills will turn out fabric that everyone will want. Then the workers and the other mill owners realize there's a problem. With a fabric that will never wear out and never needs cleaning...what happens to their mills and what happens to their jobs?

What happens is that labor and capital join forces to suppress Sidney's invention. The movie takes on all comers with sly dialogue, chases and kidnappings, some sharp-elbowed pokes at the self interest of both unions and management, and some fine comic acting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Add-on to review below September 18, 2005
Just a note--I can't find as anyone's caught this. The soundtrack for this film is by Benjamin Frankel, a serious British composer whose symphonies are highly regarded, and is one of the best film scores Ive encountered in some time. In fact I'm surprised it isn't better known as it approaches the quality Sir William Walton reached in his Shakespeare scores for Olivier. I'd buy this DVD just for the music.

Otherwise this is an absolutely wonderful flick and, as an exercise in humorous cynicism about how the modern world operates I'd double-bill it with Wilder's absurdly under-rated "One, Two, Three."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Brilliant Ealing Satire March 22, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The Man in the White Suit seems to me to be partially a satire on Ayn Rand's the Fountainhead. Alec Guinness plays Sidney Stratton deadpan in the role of the lone, mad scientist of the British clothing industry. Stratton is on a mission to create a new fabric that never gets dirty and never wears out. His bizarre quest gets him fired from one after another jobs as a scientist as he diverts (or as the British would say, cadges) equipment and supplies from companies to his projects. He then works as a janitor still cadging supplies and hiding his experiments until he is discovered and promoted by the daughter (Joan Greenwood) of one of the captains of industry.

After he is promoted, he is given full support for his bizarre idea. Then, another of the elements of satire is the mad scientist of the horror films of the late 40's, with suitable lights flashing, "boops....beeps" and water gurgling sound effects, and a few explosions of the works.

This leads to curiosity...what is he up to? Then, word leaks out that he is working on a cloth that never gets dirty and never wears out. At first it sounds like a good idea but soon the Schumpeterian creative destruction implications of this invention for jobs, businesses, and industries, becomes clear to the industry leaders, the unions, and the ordinary workers. Then, another object of satire in this movie proceeds as all the groups go to battle against each other and then eventually against this man and his invention.

Then the movie goes into a chase scene with Guinness wearing this incredibly luminous white suit..... but you'll have to watch the movie to find out how it ends.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Alec Guinness at his early best
considering when.It was made, the movie is an hilarious sendup of that time in British history. Alec Guinness, of course, is splendid as are many of the other cast members.
Published 1 month ago by dormouse3
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh what a tangled web we weave
An independent inventor Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) invents a new polymer. The bourgeoisie incarcerates him. Read more
Published 1 month ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Fountainhead" As An Ealing Comedy
Not all of the old Ealing comedies were good, but this one is topnotch. Using the same concept as was presented in Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead", an eccentric inventor has come up... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Long Tom
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Alec Guiness film
An intelligently written screenplay. Not found in most of today's movies. My second favorite film of all time. The Third Man being the first.
Published 3 months ago by Richard Whicker
5.0 out of 5 stars Frenetic Satire of British Attitudes at the Time of the Festival of...
Produced at the time of the Festival of Britain, a period when Britain was trying to show itself in its most positive light, THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT offers a gentle, if pointed... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dr. Laurence Raw
5.0 out of 5 stars Golden oldie
For anyone interested in scientific research this interesting and amusing old film is a gem. It might still come true!
Published 7 months ago by Gerry Firth
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Humor in Old Film
One of Alec Guinness' first major performances. Good clean fun, about an inventor (Guinness), who discovers a textile formula that makes a fabric all but indestructible, so of... Read more
Published 9 months ago by 40sguy
4.0 out of 5 stars Anchor Bay DVD is surprisingly better than the Region B Blu-Ray
The Region B Blu-Ray from Studiocanal is definitely not worth picking up. To my surprise, this Blu-ray does not look as good as the Anchor Bay DVD by a longshot. Read more
Published 11 months ago by D. Ostrov
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh what a tangled web we weave
An independent inventor Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) invents a new polymer. The bourgeoisie incarcerates him. Read more
Published 15 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Guiness!
What a wonderful film. Very amusing and unique performances from a cast of characters. The plot is very unusual. Excellent dress and sets.
Published 19 months ago by D. Peden
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