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United Kingdom 1951
Directed by
Alexander MacKendrick
84 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Man In The White Suit

It is easy to imagine that in its day and its home country this Ealing comedy, a two-fisted swipe at the venality of capitalism and the self-serving rhetoric of the labour movement, would have raised much merriment but it is far too simplistic to have stood the test of time.

Alec Guinness plays a mad-keen scientist who invents a fibre that never gets dirty and never deteriorates. Both he and his employer (Cecil Parker) fail to recognize that such a product strikes at the heart of consumerism and the majority of proceedings are given over to the attempts of both sides of the  industrial equation, workers and bosses, to stop them. It is, so to speak, laboured stuff that has the occasional moment and, of course, benefits form the presence of the inimitable Parker. Once again this may have appealed to British audiences of the time but it's satire appears too one-dimensional and self-congratulatory today (the Coen’s Hudsucker Proxy, 1994, is a much wittier variant on the theme), the lack of wit being padded out with much lame running about and ructions that do nothing to improve matters.

Even allowing for the shift in values over time, the main problem is that Guinness’s scientist is such a sexless prat that is is impossible to feel any real enthusiasm for the character. Joan Greenwood however shines as Parker’s spunky daughter and there is a goodly array of British character actors to enjoy but strictly if you’ve got nothing better to do.




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