BFI Southbank (studio)
29 November 2012 (released)
12 November 2012
2012 is the centenary year of director Alexander Mackendrick, and this November sees the BFI Southbank pay tribute to Mackendrick with a season of his films as part of their major Ealing retrospective, including screenings of the newly restored digital print of THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT.
One of Ealing Studios most successful movies – THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT - has been restored to celebrate the centenary of one of Ealing’s greatest directors – Alexander Mackendrick.
This 1951 satirical comedy stars Alec Guinness as Sidney Stratton, a genius inventor who develops a fabric that never gets dirty or wears out. And it is of brilliant white because it contains radioactive elements. Contrary to Stratton’s expectations, manufacturers, industry bigwigs and unions alike try to suppress the new invention and resort to desperate measures in order to avoid the miracle garment hitting the market. Understandably, they fear that a garment that never needs to be washed or wears out will put the textile industry out of business in no time, and therefore puts them out of a job too.
At the movies climax, Stratton is chased along the streets by a mob. It is then that his suit falls to pieces due to an unexpected breakdown of the fibre’s chemical structure. The mob rips off his suit piece by piece, until the genius inventor is left standing in his underwear. The next day, Stratton gets dismissed from his job. Upon consulting his chemistry notes, he realises his flaw and with the words “I see!” he makes his way into an uncertain future.
Like in several other Mackendrick-directed movies, here too we see an anti-hero/cum outsider struggling against community or management – naively unaware that this behaviour might lead to destructive consequences.
It has been suggested that the role of the outsider struggling against superior forces can be seen to reflect Mackendricks’ own experiences at Ealing Studios. They certainly formed the basis for the comedy and irony in his films.
Mackendrick , the son of of emigrated Scottish parents, moved from the US to Glasgow with his grandfather at the age of just seven and when his father had died.
Later on he began a career in advertising and during the war he worked on storyboarding and directing both instructional and propaganda films. He also set up his own production company with his cousin, writer Roger McDougall. But when they run out of money, Mackendrick took a job at Ealing Studios.
His first of five comedy films for the studio was the classic WHISKY GALORE! (1949), but his undisputed best was the 1955 black comedy classic THE LADYKILLERS.
A fully restored digital print of THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT will be shown at the BFI Southbank on Thursday, November 29th at NFT3.