The Man in the White Suit / It Always Rains on a Sunday. Film Reviews

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Writer: John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander Mackendrick
Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Ernest Thesiger

Director Robert Hamer
Writer Angus MacPhail, Robert Hamer, Henry Cornelius (from the book by Arthur La Bern)
Starring: Googie Withers, Edward Chapman, Susan Shaw

Reviewed by Guy Adams

Mention of Ealing Studios often seems to invoke the smell of buttered crumpets. A gentle, black and white blanket laced with Margaret Rutherford’s perfume. I’ve never been sure why. Ealing have their charm, certainly, but they made some deliciously subversive films. Studio Canal UK are reminding us of this through their ongoing restoration releases, presenting classics from the studio. Two of this reviewer’s favourite ever films, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers (both black and razor sharp) have already received such treatment and this month is the turn of The Man in the White Suit and It Always Rains on a Sunday.

The Man in the White Suit is a wonderfully witty little fantasy concerning the creation of a fabric that never wears out and never gets dirty. If America had made it, Jerry Lewis would have starred (with Adam Sandler in the inevitable remake), Ealing chose Alec Guinness. How terribly clever of them.

Naturally the story plays out somewhat satirically with both the executive and labour staff of the fabric mills desperate to suppress an invention that could cost them all money. What is especially clever is that, as much as you feel you should sympathize with Guinness as the revolutionary inventor, you begin to realize that perhaps everyone else is right.

The restoration job is lovely, the film looking beautiful, a very welcome addition to anyone’s library.

It Always Rains on a Sunday doesn’t really fit under the fantasy banner but with a film this good I don’t care so I’ll talk about it anyway. Directed by Robert Hamer, a homosexual during a time when it was illegal in the UK, whose alcoholism caused him insurmountable problems during the last few years of his short life.

It’s a shockingly frank and rich picture of life in the East End in post-war London. Many character stories converging in a climax that is justly lauded as a triumph of cinematography and suspense even now.

For many years the film was barely discussed, achieving its current reputation in hindsight. Still, it deserves to be wider known and acknowledged as the masterpiece it unquestionably is. Ferociously recommended.