In Which Whitey Was Way Before His Time

“Now. Some fool has invented an indestructible cloth. Where is he? How much does he want?”

It Looks As If It’s Wearing You

by Alex Carnevale

The Man in the White Suit, 85 min. 1951

dir. Alexander Mackendrick

A classic comedy starring Alec Guiness, Will and I accidentally saw The Man in the White Suit at the MOMA last week. Talk about a film that resists a bullshit-Modern Media and Culture approach to film analysis. I would like to screen this in front of a bunch of undergrads and watch them talk about diegesis. I hate diegesis.

This 1951 comedy is based on a play. It’s about a scientist who attempts to make a fabric that won’t stain or wear out.

Pauline Kael wrote of the film:

Alec Guinness has often been at his comic best in the role of an ordinary man with an obsession, and who can be as ordinary and obsessed as an inventor? In this film, he plays a quirky, idealistic scientist who lives in the modern economy of quick obsolescence yet is fixated on the long-range benefits to humanity of a cloth that will stay clean and last forever.

Guinness’s bland monomaniacal scientist is beautifully matched by Joan Greenwood, who is all guile and scorn and perversity, without any real aim or purpose.

“Cock Mobster” — MC Paul Barman (mp3)

Alexander Mackendrick directed this deft capital-science-labor comedy. With Cecil Parker, and Ernest Thesiger as a half-dead industrialist. Screenplay by Roger MacDougall, John Dighton, and Mackendrick.

(Item for collectors of movie memorabilia: the gurgling, bubbling squirts and drips of the hero’s experimental apparatus were joined to a rhythm and issued by Coral Records as “The White Suit Samba.”)

Guinness is incredibly charismatic. They should build simple films around Sacha Baron Cohen in much the same manner. The script can be clever at times, but it’s really Guinness doing his mugging and selling the whole thing that makes it entertaining–good lord, whoever thought of setting a comedy in the textile industry!

The jokes themselves have aged way better than most comedy, probably because they were built to work on the stage. There’s a fair amount of physical humor. Actually the thing the movie most reminded me of was one of my favorite guilty pleasures on television, Two and a Half Men.



Charlie: You know, it wouldn’t kill you to talk to Mom once in a while.
Alan: We don’t know that.

I have always liked Jon Cryer (sue me) and Charlie Sheen was never really at home except for when Kristy Swanson got all on top of him in that car in The Chase, so it was good to see what a funny team they make. The show currently began its run in syndication, which is big because not many shows shot in HD have made it to syndication, and one of the things that makes Two and a Half Men so fun is that Charlie lives in this big Malibu house that looks amazing on TV.

“I Can See My House From Here” — Evergreen Terrace (mp3)

Alan: This is not who I am.
Charlie: Yeah, but who you are, couldn’t get laid under water, with a tank full of oxygen.

The show is full of inspired comic actresses, from a Brooke Shields guest spot to Holland Taylor as the guys’ evil mom, to Brown grad Marin Hinkle, and Judy Greer (Kitty on Arrested Development) who has a new show this fall.

If you can’t get into the show itself, don’t blame me, America loves it, it also got an Emmy nom, not that that means anything. The ratings have been awesome throughout the show’s run, and they recently finished a particularly inspired season which had Jon Cryer marry his second wife and then get divorced in short order.

The season previous to that was the best in the show’s history, as Charlie finally got involved in a committed relationship with this betch named Mia. I thought this woman was tremendous and beautiful, but I don’t think most people felt she was right for Charlie Harper.

The show never flinches when it comes to its main subject matter, and since Sheen himself has long since started to look like a dead man walking, they are having him deal with the effect of his age. The jokes at his expense this coming season may be too much for even him to bear. Say what you want about Sheen, but any man who marries Denise Richards has a sense of humor about himself:

Richards claims her ex-husband still exhibits “inappropriate behavior… and conduct,” including “his attraction to underage women and his sexual explicitness on the Internet, including revealing his private parts.”

Also, his striped shirts are great, I don’t care what anyone says.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“The Stars Are Projectors” — Modest Mouse (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Love was all about who makes you feel positive about yrself.

Molly takes on…Michael Cera.

Tess’ archive of delightfulness.

Our boy Alec.

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3 thoughts on “In Which Whitey Was Way Before His Time

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