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Film / The Man in the White Suit

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The Man in the White Suit is a 1951 Ealing Studios comedy film. Though not always seen as such, it's a work of science fiction; it revolves around a scientific invention, with many of its consequences logically assessed.
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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.

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This film provides examples of:

  • Clothing Damage: Averted. Sidney's suit is impeccable, resistant to wear and tear. Therein lies the problem for industry and consumerism.
    • This ends up being a subversion, as his revolutionary fibre starts to self-destruct and breakdown after a period of time.
  • 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.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Sidney isn't mad, just a bit eccentric and unworldly, but his bench of bubbling chemicals hints at his oddity and scientific focus early on.
  • 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.)
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  • Person with the Clothing: Sidney is...
  • Pet the Dog: The angry mob rejoice when Sidney's miracle suit is no more, and he's left with nothing. They then realize he only wanted to make the world a better place, and immediately dress him in a good old fashioned suit.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Sidney's suit really stands out. in this black & white flick.
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: It's not emphasized, but it's mentioned in passing in the dialogue about the development of the new material that the threads are, in effect, molecular monofilaments — which causes problems in handling and cutting them. It evidently doesn't occur to any of the characters that this could have other applications (though Sidney does later use them as a reliable rope when escaping from an upper-floor room by climbing down the wall). 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.

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