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Saturday Night Cinema: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

1

Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema feature is The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and Gregory Peck is brilliant. Blockbuster cast and superb hand-picked supporting cast, with Daryl Zanuck at the helm.

I always loved the title. It evokes Magritte's Son of Man.

Relentlessly envelops every idea, obscures every issue in a smug smog of suburbinanity.

NY Times Movie review 1956:

OUT of Sloan Wilson's popular novel, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," writer-director Nunnally Johnson and producer Darryl F. Zanuck of Twentieth Century-Fox have fetched a mature, fascinating and often quite tender and touching film. It opened last night at the Roxy with a benefit première for the March of Dimes.

As most well-read people know by this time, the man in the circumspect attire is a present-day white-collar worker, aged 32 or thereabouts, who runs in a groove that narrowly ranges between Westport, Conn., and New York. He has five mouths to feed, several problems and a fair position he tries to improve by taking a job as a "ghost writer" for the president of a big broadcasting concern. He possesses the humble, stolid valor that one associates with Gregory Peck, who—by a most fortunate coincidence—is present to play the role.

It was not a simple, easy story that Mr. Wilson wrote, and it is not a simple, easy drama that Mr. Johnson has translated to the screen. The headaches, responsibilities and anxieties that weigh upon Tom Rath, the hero, are not the sharp dilemmas that usually emerge in a story or a play. They are the complex accumulations of little pressures, crises and concerns that creep up on an average fellow trying to get along in this geared-up world and can atomize him and his family if he isn't sensible and hasn't some help.

In this case, they range from such matters as the minor irritations of headstrong kids to the pain of having to tell his wife at long last that he is also the father of an Italian child born during the war. And they include such disparate difficulties as a crooked caretaker in an inherited antique house and the necessity of deciding in a hurry whether to sacrifice home life for a fat high-pressure job.

In Mr. Wilson's novel, these problems were rather awkwardly mixed, but Mr. Johnson has managed to arrange them in a seemingly scattered yet clear and forceful way. He has also managed to work in very nicely the tragic domestic problems of the hero's boss and some intimations of the harried life of other people. He has, in short, a full, well-rounded film.

To do this, he has had to take his sweet time. The film runs for two and a half hours and, except for two somewhat long war flashbacks, every minute is profitably used. Mr. Johnson is dealing with people who not only feel but also think and whose feelings and mental processes are truly conditioned by the patterns of their lives. He has wisely paced his film at a tempo that gives them plausible time to deliberate.

His most telling sequence, for instance, is one in which his two key men—the hero and the man for whom he is writing—sit down in the latter's home to talk business. While they are talking, the whole rotten fabric of the boss' personal life is ripped. This sequence takes time, but it is one of the most eloquent and touching we've seen.

The critical scene in which the hero tells his wife of his Italian child is also a long mordant passage that strikes sparks every second of the way.

In the burnished performance of this picture, all the actors are excellent. Mr. Peck is a human, troubled Tom Rath; Fredric March makes a glib but lonely boss; Jennifer Jones is warm and irritable as Tom's wife and Ann Harding is poignant as the worn-out wife of the boss. Marisa Pavan touches the heartstrings in the brief role of the girl of the war romance, and Keenan Wynn, Lee J. Cobb, Gene Lockhart and Henry Daniell are fine in character roles.

Mr. Zanuck's expensive production gives proper setting to this intelligent film. Cinema-Scope and color complement its honest, three-dimensional theme.

Featured in the new ice and stage show at the Roxy are Vicky Autier, singer-pianist, Nicky Powers, Leslie Sang, Barbara Hunt, and the ice Roxyettes. The choreography and staging were by Dolores Pallet. The orchestra was conducted by Robert Boucher.

The Cast
THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT, screen play by Nunnally Johnson, from the novel by Sloan Wilson; directed by Mr. Johnson; produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for Twentieth Century-Fox. At the Roxy.
Tom Rath . . . . . Gregory Peck
Betsy . . . . . Jennifer Jones
Hopkins . . . . . Fredric March
Maria . . . . . Marisa Pavan
Judge Bernstein . . . . . Lee J. Cobb
Mrs. Hopkins . . . . . Ann Harding
Caesar Gardella . . . . . Keenan Wynn
Hawthorne . . . . . Gene Lockhart
Susan Hopkins . . . . . Gigi Perreau
Janie . . . . . Portland Mason
Walker . . . . . Arthur O'Connell
Bill Ogden . . . . . Henry Daniell
Mrs. Manter . . . . . Connie Gilchrist
Edward Schultz . . . . . Joseph Sweeney
Barbara . . . . . Sandy Descher
Pete . . . . . Mickey Maga
Mahoney . . . . . Kenneth Tobey
Florence . . . . . Ruth Clifford
Miriam . . . . . Geraldine Wall

The Truth Must be Told

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