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The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

(1956 c 153')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Adapted from Sloan Wilson’s novel, a businessman with a family remembers loving an Italian woman during the war who becomes pregnant. His wife urges him to get a better job, and he considers how to talk to his boss about a speech.

         Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) sits on a train in New York City next to Bill Hawthorne (Gene Lockhart), who asks if Tom wants to make a change because there is an opening in public relations. Tom asks how much it pays and says he does not know anything about it. Tom gets off the train and is met by his wife Betsy Rath (Jennifer Jones). She says the washing machine needs to be replaced. They drive home in the dark and are met by their little son. Tom finds his two daughters in their bedroom, and they talk about whether one has chicken pox. In the kitchen Tom mixes two drinks. He tells his son to stop talking about death. Tom and Betsy drink at the kitchen table. He answers the phone, and his lawyer tells him disappointing news about an estate. Tom tells Betsy that the only thing left on Grandma’s estate is an old house with a mortgage. She asks what it would sell for, and he says $20,000. Their son Pete (Mickey Maga) is dressed as a soldier and goes out but comes back in. Tom says it would cost $6,000 a year to keep up the old house. He says they should sell it. Betsy suggests they sell their house too and get a better house. He is tired of hearing her talk about that, but she really wants to get out of that house. Tom says other people are doing worse than they are. She says it is not a happy house because of the war. He asks her to forget the war. She asks what has happened to him and says she is ashamed of him because he has lost his guts. He pours himself another drink and walks upstairs. He sees Pete in his room and then goes outside and carries the dog in to Pete, who thanks him. They kiss each other. Tom goes in the girls’ room and kisses the sleeping girl and tucks in the other one.

         On the train Tom asks Bill about the opening and says he will call him about it. He sees a man with a fur-lined collar and remembers the war. At night two American soldiers are cold and see a German soldier with a warm coat with a fur collar. Tom jumps the boy and strangles him to death. He removes his coat and puts it on. Then he drags the body into the woods and covers it with branches. Tom tells his friend that he made a noise and is not dead. The boy starts to shout, and Tom stabs him. On the train Bill says he cannot get used to the Brooklyn Dodgers as world champions.

         Captain Tom Rath is asked by his men when they are leaving, and he says they are going to the Pacific War. Sgt Caesar Gardella (Keenan Wynn) has a girl Gina and tells Tom he has something for him, but Tom wants to go back to the post. Caesar introduces Maria (Marisa Pavan) to Tom, and he takes her for a ride in a carriage. He asks if she would be his widow. She does not want to talk about death, and he says he loves her. He says she is beautiful and kisses her. The carriage stops, and Tom asks how much. Maria argues with the driver about how much he is charging, and she pays him. They go upstairs into her apartment, and she lights a candle. He says he may leave his entire estate to her. She asks him for some spam, and he is surprised she wants spam. He learns that she lives with two women. She says they all like food in tins or boxes. He offers to get some, but she says in the morning. They embrace.

         Tom tells Caesar that he has liberty and wants to spend his last day with Maria alone. He finds her in bed and says he got a jeep. Three boys carry in boxes of food. He secretly puts some cash in her Bible. As he drives in the rain, she kisses him and leans on his shoulder. He asks her to drive, and he plays a mandolin and sings “A Rambling Wreck.” In a bombed-out mansion Tom feeds a fire, and they lay on blankets and hold hands. He tells her he is leaving, and she asks how long he will remember her. He says as long as he lives. She mentions his being back with his wife. He says he no longer thinks about being killed. She says it will be like taking the light out of the room. He kisses her. He remembers their time together, and she says she was so lonely. She thinks she will have a child. He asks if she wants it, and she says she prays for it.

         Bill asks Tom if he wants him to set up the appointment today, and Tom says yes. Tom goes past the United Nations and into the UBC building. He meets Gordon Walker (Arthur O’Connell) who is sitting behind a desk and rests. Tom says he wants a job with more advancement than he has at the foundation. Gordon tells him to write his autobiography in one hour and why they should hire him. He is to finish the sentence, “The most significant thing about me is …” He says the results will be confidential. Tom goes into the room and sits at the typewriter and starts typing. He sees a plane and remembers the war in the Pacific.

         On a plane Tom instructs his men before they jump out. Tom jumps out first. Dozens of men are parachuting, and ships are hitting the beaches. Tom lands by a palm tree and shouts to his men, showing which way to go. Bombs are exploding as they advance. They shoot at a pillbox. Tom tells Caesar to cover him and goes forward. Caesar shoots men who were shooting at Tom, who throws a grenade at them. Tom finds Hank wounded and calls for a medic. Tom carries Hank back, and a medic says he is dead. Tom denies that and is angry. Tom insists on carrying him. Tom holds the body in his lap, and a black soldier offers to carry him. He says he is dead and leaves him with Tom.

         Tom looks at the clock and finishes his typing. He hands a page to Gordon, who asks if that is all. Gordon reads it and finds that he has avoided saying anything personal except he could do a good job.

         Tom drives Betsy from the train station and tells her he went to see about a new job. She apologizes for the argument they had and puts her head on his shoulder. She asks how much it would pay. In the kitchen he dries dishes and says he would like to make her proud of him. They tell the children to go to bed, and he watches the western on television.

         Gordon asks Bill Ogden (Henry Daniell) why their boss is going for someone outside of their company. Tom comes in, and Gordon says that Mr. Hopkins liked his application. Gordon says it is a national campaign on mental health. Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March) is being examined by a doctor in his office, and he tells Gordon to send up Tom. He calls in Tom, Gordon, and Ogden. Hopkins invites Tom to lunch. Hopkins asks them for five minutes and takes a call from his wife,

         At lunch Hopkins talks about how many cases of mental illness there are. Tom suggests getting more state and federal funds. He says they could organize community clinics for prevention. Hopkins thanks Tom for coming, and he consults with Gordon and Ogden briefly. Ogden tells Tom the job pays about $7,000. Tom says he is making that now, and he asks for $10,000. Gordon says they only wanted to get a line on his thinking. Tom thanks them and goes out. Ogden suggests it will be nine.

         Hopkins rings a bell, and a maid does not know who he is. He comes in and asks how long she has been there. His wife Helen (Ann Harding) comes in, and he kisses her. She talks to him about their 18-year-old daughter and complains she is a celebrity with a “filthy crowd.” She says the man she is seeing is older than she is. Hopkins calls him a clown, and Helen says she is thinking of marriage. Helen says the other one is a writer who is separated from his wife. He asks Helen why she lets her go out with them, and she says she can’t do anything with her anymore. Helen talks about their son who died. She asks her husband to help her and give their daughter some attention. He says he will call her. Helen says he must make this effort, or she will never want to see him again. He embraces her and promises.

         Tom takes Betsy’s temperature and asks if she has any spots. Betsy says they can sell the house and move into Grandma’s. She suggests they could divide up the property, and he says there are zoning laws. She says if they live there, they can get zoning laws changed. He asks what they would live on. She says he can get a raise if he wants it. She urges him to hold out for $10,000. He goes downstairs and finds the three children watching a western. He suggests they should be in bed, but they do not move. A housekeeper shouts at them, and they take off. Tom tells Betsy that nothing scares her. She says he has changed since the war. He admits he was a citizen soldier and is catching the 8:26 again. She says marriage is a secret between two people. She is afraid she is not sharing with him. They kiss, and she says she would never change him for anyone.

         Tom goes with Gordon and Ogden to meet his secretary and see his office. Gordon welcomes him and leaves. Ogden tells Tom he will have a trial period of six months. Hopkins will be giving a speech to a doctors convention. Tom asks if he is to write the speech, but Ogden says Hopkins writes his own speeches. Ogden says at the end of the speech all the doctors should ask Hopkins to head a campaign.

         In the car Betsy asks Tom what happened. Tom says he is preparing rough material for Hopkins to write his own speech. She says he is being bright and cynical. She urges him to be honest. She says they are moving into Grandma’s house on Thursday. She sold their house for $14,000. She takes him to Grandma’s house, and they ring the bell. Old Edward Schultz (Joseph Sweeney) opens the door. Edward asks Tom why he was not permitted to see Mrs. Rath’s will. Tom says he is not in it, but he can see the will that is on record. Edward says she told him that he is in it. Tom says he will always have a home there. Edward says she promised him the house. Tom asks Edward to be sensible, or he may be thrown out. Edward says he will leave, but he will be back. Tom gets angry and grabs Edward’s clothes. Edward says he will get proof. Betsy comes in and asks what proof. Tom calls Judge Bernstein (Lee J. Cobb), who remembers the will. Tom asks about Edward, and Bernstein remembers him. Bernstein tells his secretary they both may demand justice.

         At a hotel Caesar notices Tom and wants to talk to him. Tom meets with Hopkins, who talks about the speech and the good he can do. Hopkins answers the door, and his daughter Susan (Gigi Perreau) comes in. Hopkins asks Tom to leave, and he goes out. Hopkins asks Susan if Tom reminds her of anyone. Susan asks for bourbon. She says she does not want to go to college. She says she would like to get married. He asks who is the fellow. She says she is not sure. He says they have a problem because he has acquired much money. She will have to learn how to handle it. She says she is not interested in money. He asks her what a million dollars is and tells her examples of what it can buy. He says no intelligent person considers it a bore. He says he could die at any time. She says she will not let money ruin her life as it has his and her mother’s. She says he must have a guilt complex. She says she can get lawyers to handle things. He wants to help her in the future. He suggests she move into his apartment for a while so they can work together. She says she does not want to work. She asks him to leave her alone. He says she is still his little girl. She says he has not bothered to see her much at all. She says he does not love anybody, and he says it is not true. She runs out, and he goes after her. She says she does not want to be reasonable, and she takes the elevator.

         Ogden tells Tom his draft is worse than the others. Tom asks what is wrong with it. He wants Mr. Hopkins to look at it. Tom asks for more intelligent criticism. Ogden calls his wife, and Tom walks out, thinking he is fired. His secretary tells Tom she thinks it is good. She says Judge Bernstein called. Tom talks to him, and Bernstein says Edward brought him a note which says that Mrs. Rath bequeathed everything to Edward in 1953. Tom says he knows nothing about it. Bernstein says a court must decide. Tom agrees to stop and see him. Bernstein tells his secretary he will have to learn more about the two men.

         Tom meets with Hopkins and says he is not on the speech anymore. Hopkins hands him an outline that others helped him with. Tom says he will read it. Hopkins calls Ogden and asks if Tom turned in anything, and Ogden says it was nothing.

         At home Betsy tells Tom the speech is boring. Tom says Hopkins wants to know his opinion, and he thinks it is dreadful. Tom says it is tricky and suggests ways of feeling out the boss to see how he feels about the speech. She asks if he will do that. She says it is sickening and walks out. He follows her and asks her what is the matter. She urges him to be honest. Tom says Hopkins helped write the speech. She asks Tom if he will tell the truth about it or not. She says these are intelligent men. He says he will be honest that he does not know. Tom says he has a good position and that Hopkins likes him. She says she wanted him to fight for something and not be a yes man. He says integrity is more difficult when a man has a wife and three children. He says they may not even own that house. She says a decent man is always honest and wonders if he will not tell her the truth.

         Tom meets with Bernstein and Edward. Bernstein has the two documents. Tom asks if the document must be witnessed, and Edward says not necessarily. Edward admits he did everything for Mrs. Rath. Bernstein asks if he wrote or typed the checks. Edward says he typed them. Bernstein tells Edward he is dishonest. Bernstein says several witnesses said Edward told them to pad her bills so that he could get a kick-back. Bernstein says Edward has $78,000 in the bank and asks if he would mind having the income tax examine his accounts. Bernstein advises Edward not to make a serious mistake. Mrs. Rath was so old she might sign anything he put in front of her. Edward takes the document, says he has lawyers, and goes out. Tom asks if he will be back. Bernstein says he does not know. He says in a small town people learn about people. It is easier to be slick in the city.

         Tom calls on Hopkins at home and declines a drink. Tom says he did five versions. Hopkins says he only set the keynote. Hopkins says he is a layman addressing professionals. Hopkins answers the phone. The press is asking his view of his daughter’s marriage. He says he is disappointed they eloped. He says the man is an old family friend. Hopkins calls his wife, and she says a newspaper called her. He says he wants to come and stay with her, but she does not want to see him. She does not want him to call her at all, and they hang up. Hopkins tells Tom his daughter eloped without calling him. Hopkins asks if he liked that approach. Tom says no. Hopkins asks why. Tom says it is an argument that mental health is an important problem, which is not news to doctors. The worst is the statement that Hopkins is a simple and uninformed man. Tom says if they believe that, they would not want him to lead the campaign. Tom says sincerity is needed. Hopkins asks how he would do it. Tom says he would be practical and tell him what he could do to reach almost all the people in the United States. Tom asks where else they can get that deal. Tom starts to leave, and Hopkins asks him to have a drink with him before he goes. Tom offers to fix the drinks. Hopkins asks where he lives and asks about his children. Hopkins says his boy was killed in the war. He says he left him with good memories. His soon refused to take a commission. Hopkins urges Tom to spend time with his kids. Hopkins says that family men cannot build big successful businesses. He says only men like him who can devote all their time can do it. His mistake was to be such a man. Tom asks what he can do for him, and Hopkins thanks him for coming. Tom leaves.

         The elevator operator Caesar speaks to Tom, who remembers him. Caesar asks to see him after work about something important, and they decide where to meet. After work Tom sits down with Caesar in the cocktail lounge. Caesar says he married Gina. Tom asks about Maria, and Caesar says she got married. Tom says he wrote to her, but she did not answer. Caesar says she had a little boy. Caesar says he sends money to Gina’s mother because it is still tough over there. Maria and the boys moved in with Gina’s mother, and Caesar is supporting them too. Tom asks about her husband, and Caesar says he died. Caesar gives Tom a sealed letter for him from Maria. Tom opens and reads it. She asks for whatever he can do, and she includes a picture of the boy. Caesar says he shines shoes after school to make some money. Tom asks for time to think it over. Tom says he must keep his wife from knowing. He asks how much they need. Caesar suggests a hundred a month. Tom says he will send something right away and think what else he can do.

         Tom finds his children watching TV, and they do not look up. Betsy asks if Tom had his dinner. He says he did. He tells her he told Hopkins his speech is not good. Tom says he has to be honest with her. He says during the war he had a child in Rome. He was not sure of it, but now he has received a letter from her. He shows her the letter, and she asks for the picture. She asks who she was. He admits he was in love with her then, but he is not now. He wants to do something to help the boy. He asks her for understanding. He says he killed seventeen men he could see. He killed his best friend by accident. When he met the girl, he was afraid he would be killed and never see her again. She asks when it happened, and he says it was in June and July 1945. She says she nearly went crazy that summer. He says she has no legal hold on him. He says he could deny it. She remembers that summer and wondered why he did not write. She asks if she was pretty and if she loved him more than she does. She asks if he still thinks of her. He says it was over ten years ago. She feels terrible and complains about the emptiness of their relationship. He says she told him to be honest, and he is being honest. He loves her more now than ever. She screams and tells him not to touch her. She runs out, and he catches up to her in the yard and holds her. She cries and asks him to let her go. She lays down and tells him to go in the house. He asks her to come back in the house. She suggests he go back to Italy and make up his mind. He says he already made up his mind. He slowly walks back in the house. He hears the car start, runs out, and sees her drive off. She drives fast and nearly hits a truck. Tom waits for her and calls the police. He asks if there was an accident with a woman. He walks outside and sits by the steps. Betsy is in the car.

         In the morning a policeman calls Tom and tells him Mrs. Rath is there. Tom asks to speak to her, and she says she is all right. She says she ran out of gas, and he laughs. He asks if there is a charge, and he says he will come. Tom gets a call from Hopkins who asks him to go with him to the coast. Tom says he cannot make it because he has to be home with his family. Tom says he is one of the nine-to-five fellows. Hopkins does not blame him and says they need those men too. Hopkins asks Tom to bring in his version of the speech.

         Tom and Betsy come into Bernstein’s office, and Tom asks if he can close the door. Tom asks him to help with a personal matter. Tom says he has a child in Italy, and he never married the mother. He says he wants to send them $100 a month regularly and without any personal correspondence. He asks if Bernstein would handle it for them. Betsy says they would like to set up a trust fund later. Bernstein says he would be happy to do it without any charge. Bernstein tells Betsy it is a privilege to have met her. Bernstein shakes hands with Tom, and they say goodbye. Tom joins Betsy in the car and says he worships her. They kiss and smile.

         This drama reflects the life of a businessman and his suburban family. The war has affected his life even though it was so different from his career. His warm family relationships are contrasted to the cold and distant relationships of the corporate boss who has little time for them. The nobility of the wife’s love is shown by how she learns to handle the legacy of his war experience.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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