"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."
Great Ealing black comedy on industry & technology
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 11/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Add-on to review below
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 09/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.""
Another Brilliant Ealing Satire
Richard M. Rollo Jr. | Montebello, CA USA | 03/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
One of Alec Guinness's best comedic films of the fifties
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 10/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although Alec Guinness had already achieved a fair degree of fame on stage and on screen by the time he made THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, this is, in fact, one of his earliest starring roles. Strictly speaking, although he had portrayed eight characters in 1949's KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, this was his first comedy in which is played the lead. Playing inventor Sidney Stratton, Guinness further cemented his burgeoning reputation as one of England's most interesting and versatile actors.The film features a marvelous though, to early 21st century film fans, largely unknown cast. Joan Greenwood, who is one of my favorite actresses in the history of film--beautiful, effortlessly sexy and sensual, enormously talented, and possessed of one of the great voices in the history of cinema--plays Guinness's romantic counterfoil. Cecil Parker, who while never a star, seemed to populate dozens of successful films without ever calling attention to himself. The film also features a typical performance by Ernest Thesiger, who played ancient-old-man parts for over forty years in films and is one of the most unique looking actors in British film history. The story involves a quirky scientist inventing cloth that never gets dirty and never wears out, but which comes out of the lab pure white. This was at a time when a whole range of new synthetic fabrics were hitting the market, so the subject was very topical at the time. The plot revolves around the anticipated effects such material would have on the textile industry. The film is a comedy, but it is the kind of comedy that creates more smiles than laughs. It is not less delightful for that."