The Man in the White Suit
Based on Roger MacDougall’s play, a man invents a fabric that does not wear out or soil and finds that neither owners nor workers want it produced.
Textile factory owner Alan Birnley (Cecil Parker) asks about a new substance in a laboratory. Sidney Stratton (Alex Guinness) loses his job. He goes to another mill and is given space in the lab without pay. Daphne Birnley (Joan Greenwood) tells her father that she wants to leave home.
Sidney tells Daphne that he has found a better molecule than nylon. Sidney experiments and makes a white liquid. He tells the lab manager Hoskins (Henry Mollison) that he has done it.
Sidney asks to see Alan Birnley and is turned away. Sidney comes back, and Daphne lets him in. Alan Birnley throws Sidney out in the rain. Daphne tells her father that Sidney has invented a new cloth that never wears out nor does it get dirty.
Alan Birnley gives Sidney a contract. Sidney causes explosions in the lab. While he is behind sandbags, Alan Birnley is exposed; but the liquid turns white. Sidney has succeeded. They manufacture the fabric and make cloth that repels liquids. Sidney uses a blow torch to cut patterns and puts on a white suit.
Daphne likes it and says he has freed people. Mill owner Michael Corland (Michael Gough) learns it is unbreakable. He and Sir John Kierlaw (Ernest Thesiger) go to see how much Alan Birnley wants. Workers are afraid they will lose their jobs.
Alan Birnley and other mill owners offer Sidney a contract, but he learns that publication will be delayed. They want control and offer Sidney a quarter million. Sidney struggles to get free and is eventually knocked unconscious.
Daphne waits for Sidney. Newspapers report the story. The mill owners try to find a strategy, and Daphne comes in. They ask her to persuade Sidney and offer her money. She goes to Sidney and kisses him, offering to go with him. He says no.
Alan Birnley learns that the workers are on strike and are demanding a guarantee that it won’t be produced. Sidney tries to borrow a shilling to get to the newspapers. He learns that the workers want to stop it too. The mill worker Bertha (Vida Hope) locks him in a room.
Sidney in the white suit is chased. A washerwoman asks him what she will do. In the lab a technician sees that the fabric is unstable. The workers grab pieces of Sidney’s suit, and they are happy. Sidney is somber. Alan Birnley hopes that they have seen the last of Sidney.
This farce satirizes the modern economies that depend on products that constantly need to be replaced so that people can continue to make money.