The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Impeccable British comedy with Alec Guiness as the titular hero, Sidney Stratton, the original nerd-wonk, a genius who never received his degree but who labors at textile mills in order to work surreptitiously in their labs. He's on the verge of developing a cloth that lasts forever and never gets dirty but he's always found out before completing the experiment.
Academy Award Nominations:
"Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What's to become of my bit of washing when there's no washing to do?"
Finally he is bankrolled by Alan Birnley (Cecil Parker), mostly through the auspices of Birnley's daughter, Daphne (Joan Greenwood), who opens the old man's mind to the possibilities. She has a rich girl's fixation on asexual genius, tired, as she is, of all the dull business types around her. When the experiment works and the suit is made, the textile industry, in the form of Sir John Kierlaw, wheelchair-bound patriarch, comes down hard on Birnley and Sidney. In closed door meetings, industry people regale Birnley with all the poor folks who will be put out of work by this new supercloth. What about the laborers? What about the salespeople? Then Kierlaw interrupts: "Let us stick to the point. What about us?" Labor indeed understands, for they too come out against the cloth, and both parties pursue the nattily-attired and radioactively-glowing Guiness to save their mill town.
I'm saying nothing original here but Guiness is beautiful. An unhealthy gleam shines in his eyes when he stares at his test tubes. Chased about, he is a talkies-version of Buster Keaton.
June 30, 1999
© 1999 Erik Lundegaard