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One of the happiest of the Brattle's revivals in some time, The Man in the White Suit is among the best of the British comedies. It is gloriously witty without ceasing to be intelligent and has lost none of its bite in the five years since it was first released.
Alec Guiness plays a shy and quiet impoverished chemist who invents an indestructible and soil-proof fabric on the sly and manages to cause no small furor in the ranks of British industry and labor, as they try to suppress the invention, the first fearful of depleting the business, the second of losing their jobs. Under all the comic routine is couched quite a powerful satire of the illogical complexities of the modern economy, quite beyond the good will of the participants. Mr. Guiness is at at his very best, never overplaying but by quietly alternating shy smiles of joy and perplexity he manages to put each scene across with convulsing hilarity.
He is admirably supported by an unusually talented cast. Cecil Parker and Michael Gough hilariously lampoon the stolidity of a pair of English industrialists without being in the least unkind or unlikable. And shapely Joan Greenwood is absolutely perfect as the rebellious daughter of the industrialist who employs our hero. She manages to portray the peaches and cream English type wanting to make a nest, yet at the same time a delightfully seductive sophisticate. One of the best minor roles in the film is carried by Vera Hope as a stalwart and outspoken labor organizer whose femininity shows through now and then.
The script is marvelously clever without being even dull although the real interest of the film lies in its really top-notch acting. The art of lampooning without bitterness, cruelty or overstatement seems to be a peculiarly British talent and The Man in the White Suit is a good case in point.
Director Alexander Mackendrick, who also had a hand in writing the script, is a master of nuances with the camera and in picking English types with an air of reality-harried bureaucrats, laboratory assistants who help themselves to a wee drop from a retort now and then, and other pungent touches. Particularly amusing is the chemical apparatus that serves as a running gag throughout the film. Also sprightly is Benjamin Frenkel's music.
The Man in the White Suit is an excellent piece of work, sure to become established as a classic, and the most fetching entertainment to hit Cambridge in a long time.
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