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The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Nunnally Johnson

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
The movie is less like the man than the grey flannel suit: serious, stolid, meant to impress and dull as drying paint. The ever-virtuous Gregory Peck is the first nail in the coffin of this would-be drama, lending his earnest credibility to his role as an ex-soldier trying to make ends meet in Eisenhower's America. The second is writer/director Nunnally Johnson, who's so convinced that he's got all the elements of a socko problem picture that he refuses to editorialise even a little bit. Peck's rise up the Madison Avenue ladder is of course tainted by angst from his war days and pressure from wife Jennifer Jones, but it's all laid out in endless master shots with dialogue that tells you what to think and then lapses into a coma. Peck is perfect for the role in all the wrong ways, so impossibly decent that you want to lob a brick at his head, and despite mention of all manner of stresses and neuroses he never once lets you believe that he's really suffering inside. By the time a wartime romance makes reappears, you're well past caring and just see it as another petty nuisance in the lives of boring people you hope never move into the neighbourhood. Technically though, there's nothing wrong with it — Charles G. Clarke's cinematography is clean and slick, and everything's art directed within an inch of its life — but it's a mechanical feat, not an artistic one, with Johnson asleep at the switch and the talented support personnel helpless to do anything but lay on another coat of lacquer. It also features a sparse and uninformative commentary by scholar James Monaco, newsreel footage of the premiere, a film-to-video restoration comparison, and a still gallery. (Fox)

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