The Man in the White Suit (1951) starring Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Ernest Thesiger, Vida Hope directed by Alexander Mackendrick Movie Review

The Man in the White Suit (1951)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Alec Guinness as Sidney Stratton in The Man in the White Suit (1951)

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When it comes to fun and farce there is nothing like an Ealing comedy and "The Man in the White Suit" is up there with the best of the Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness delivering yet another great comedy performance. But whilst "The Man in the White Suit" is a lot of fun it is also a comedy with some surprising depth when it comes to industrial progress, capitalism and workers jobs which you certainly don't expect from a movie full of farce. It means that whilst "The Man in the White Suit" will make you smile it also makes you think, not too hard but still makes your brain tick over.

Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness - Kind Hearts and Coronets) is a bit of an eccentric as he has found himself fired from numerous textile companies whilst working in their laboratories. You see Sidney is working on a formula to create a fabric which never wears out or gets dirty but in order to do so he has often secretly spent lots of company money. When he manages to sneak into the laboratory at Birnley textiles whilst working as a warehouseman he is mistaken for one of the scientists and gets to work on completing his fabulous invention. The trouble is that he doesn't realise what this would mean to others from the textile owners who will run out of business, the workers who won't have jobs anymore to his landlady who won't make any extra money from washing clothes.

Joan Greenwood as Daphne Birnley in The Man in the White Suit (1951)

So on face value "The Man in the White Suit" is a classically simple Ealing comedy as we have plenty of farce from Sidney sneaking around to work on his formula to trying to get away from those chasing him. As such we have the fun of him being mistaken for a scientist when he is a labourer, we have the fun of the fact he has been sacked from 7 other textile companies and the fun of the machine he has concocted which has a rhythmic gurgle and blup. But then when he believes he has perfected his formula for indestructible cloth we not only have him running around in a luminous white suit but various people from company bosses to colleagues trying to prevent him from getting away and letting the world know of his invention. It is just simple farce which is both wonderfully paced and acted so that you have a smile on your face from start to finish.

But then there is the surprising side to "The Man in the White Suit", the depth of what Sidney's invention means on a wider scale. As such whilst I wouldn't say that "The Man in the White Suit" is intellectually deep it makes you think about certain things to do with industrial progress from businesses trying to stifle progress to protect profits, workers fearing for their jobs right through to what it means to the person on the street. And as such we basically have a statement being made that progress is not always a good thing and just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. But as I said whilst "The Man in the White Suit" makes you think it's not deep just does a nice job of highlighting the issues of progress whilst delivering plenty of comedy.

Now whilst we have a lot of enjoyable performances be it Joan Greenwood as the seductive Daphne Birnley or Ernest Thesiger as the wheezing Sir John Kierlaw it is Alec Guinness who makes the movie. The irony is that Guinness as Sidney doesn't do anything special other than play him as a bit naive, a bit eccentric but generally a nice guy but that is all it takes to make him amusing especially in a white suit which would make John Travolta jealous.

What this all boils down to is that "The Man in the White Suit" is another great Ealing comedy which will make you smile with some classic farce. But it is also a movie with a surprising depth when it comes to industrial progress which whilst never taxing on the brain does make you think.