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Film Page: The Man in the White Suit

February 5, 2006

The Man in the White Suit (1951)

In this hilarious film Alec Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a brilliant scientist who is struggling to complete his research on a new kind of fabric that will not only be nearly indestructible but even repel dirt. He is booted out of one industrial lab after another each time his personal project is discovered until he finally gets the formal backing of a cloth manufacturer. His experiments are a success and filled with pride and joy about his invention that will benefit so many, he prepares to go to the press conference. That's when a big business cartel and a labor union attack ("capital and labor are hand in hand in this") fearing that Stratton's invention will put them all out of work since people won't need replacement clothes once they get clothes made from Stratton's cloth. First the businessmen try to trick Stratton into signing a contract that will give them full control of his invention, but he asks "To suppress it?" and they respond "Yes". When trickery doesn't work the businessmen and labor union turn to violence.

The movie strangely leaves out any government role as the union and the cartel unabashedly use violence to put down their competitor. But only a little imagination is required to see this movie as a critique of real world big government/big business/big union fascism. This is a great and funny film about entrepreneurial innovation and the "vested interests, the dead hand of monopoly" who try to suppress it by force.

More Films on Liberty and the State.

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