Film / The Man in the White Suit

The Man in the White Suit is a 1951 Ealing Studios comedy film.

Alec Guinness stars as Sidney Stratton, an industrial chemist who believes he is on the path to creating a new synthetic fibre that never wears out and cannot be damaged, dirtied or stained. When at last he succeeds, he finds himself on the run (in a demonstration suit made from the new fabric) from the vested interests who want it suppressed because of the effect it will have on the existing industry.

This film provides examples of:

  • The End... Or Is It?: The film ends with Sidney walking off down the street while the owner of the textile mill he worked at reflects with relief that he's no longer a threat. Then Sidney has an inspiration about how to prevent the wonder fabric self-destructing...
  • Gaussian Girl: Particularly noticeable in the seduction scene when the camera cuts back and forth between crystal-clear shots of Sidney and really really fuzzy shots of Daphne.
  • Job Title
  • Man in White: Sidney, once he dons the new suit. On the literal level, it's white because it repels all dirt and stains; symbolically it represents Sidney's moral innocence in a world of division, corruption and compromise. (Daphne remarks that it makes him look like a modern-day knight in shining armour.)
  • Person with the Clothing
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: It's not emphasised, but it's mentioned in passing in the dialogue about the development of the new material that the threads are, in effect, molecular monofilaments — causing problems in handling and cutting them. It evidently doesn't occur to any of the characters that this could have other applications. This may be one of the earliest occurrences of the concept in fiction.
  • Trick Dialogue: Sidney delivers an impassioned speech about why he shouldn't be fired for using company resources on his quest — to the mirror in the men's washroom.