The Man in the White Suit (Alexander Mackendrick, 1951)

What's it about? Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) is an eccentric scientist who invents an indestructible new fabric that never needs washed. But not everyone in the textile industry is as happy with his invention as he is.


Is it any good? This is probably the most complex film produced from the famous Ealing Studios during the post-war years, being a curious mix of sci-fi, satire and social commentary. Key to this is the astute observation of the reaction to Sidney's amazing invention by various groups of people. Rather than embracing the discovery, both the factory workers and money-men realise their entire industry is under threat and turn on Sidney because he has brought that fate upon them. Like Frankenstein's monster (another product of scientific meddling), he is persecuted rather than worshipped, and every effort is made to suppress his invention. Whilst this is fictional, it's not a big jump to imagine it might happen in reality if someone did come up with a marvellous invention, such as a limitless, cheap substitute for energy or fuel, or a simple cure for cancer. With so many powerful people and industries standing to lose, would they really allow such a discovery to see the light of day? In fact, who knows what inventions have already been suppressed by the authorities to maintain the current status quo?

But this film is not about championing the oppressed individual either, making sure to berate Sidney for meddling in such things, without due consideration for how it might affect people. In fact, Sidney as written would come across as a rather aloof, unsympathetic character were it not for Guinness, who invests him with a considerable amount of charm. If you only know Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, or from his intense turns in The Bridge on the River Kwai and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, you might be surprised to see the deft comic touch he has in this, and several other Ealing films. Overall, it didn't make me laugh as much as some comedies, but it made me think more than most, so that was good.

Anything else I should know? I'm also a scientist and I too invented something that would revolutionise the world as we know it. But, like Sidney's invention, the powers-that-be suppressed it and keep me captive. That's why I'm writing this from a secure cell in an unknown location. They allow me to use the Internet but if I even mention my invention, the big guard outside comes in and starts banging my head on the keybo-skdhkfori                eriovjeoijvepj               evjorioeveprjpvepporw           sfiojjsdfv;      'vjfvjpsdvjsdfvj'dv           sddsvkjksdj;jsdf      GYIIHSLLKSFKL

What does the Fonz think?

is pretty good for you. Geddit?

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