The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a 1956 American drama film based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Sloan Wilson.
The film focuses on Tom Rath, a young World War II veteran trying to balance his marriage and family life with the demands of a new job while dealing with the aftereffects of his war service.
The film stars Gregory Peck as Rath and Jennifer Jones as his wife Betsy, with Fredric March, Lee J. Cobb, Keenan Wynn and Marisa Pavan in supporting roles.
Ten years after the end of World War II, Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) is living in suburban Connecticut with his wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) and three children; he’s having difficulty supporting his family on his salary writing for a nonprofit organisation. Tom is also dealing with flashbacks from his combat service as an Army Captain in both the European and Pacific theatres, involving men that he killed (including, by accident, his best friend), and a young Italian girl named Maria (Marisa Pavan), with whom he had a brief but heartfelt affair in Italy despite his being in a relationship with Betsy at the time. Before he left Maria for the final time to go back into battle, Tom was told that she was pregnant and was going to keep the baby. He would never see her or the child again.
When an expected inheritance from Tom’s recently deceased grandmother turns out to have been depleted, leaving only her large and unsaleable mansion, Betsy pressures Tom to seek a higher-paying job. Acting on a tip from a fellow train commuter, Tom applies for an opening in public relations at television network UBC. Asked to write his autobiography as part of the interview process, he refuses. Hired nonetheless, he helps network president Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March) launch a national mental health campaign. Hopkins is powerful and highly respected, but unbeknown to his employees, his workaholic habits have caused him to be estranged from his wife and his rebellious daughter, who soon elopes with an unsuitable man.
Tom is initially supervised by Bill Ogden (Henry Daniell), a micromanager and office politician who rejects Tom’s drafts of an important Hopkins speech intended to launch the campaign, substituting his own draft consisting of what Ogden thinks Hopkins wants to hear. Tom plans to play along and accept Ogden’s draft but, coaxed by Betsy, presents his original ideas to Hopkins instead. Hopkins, who has just received the unwelcome news of his daughter’s elopement, is receptive to Tom’s criticism and thinks Tom resembles his own late son, who refused to accept an officer’s commission in World War II and was subsequently killed in action as an enlisted man. Hopkins now regrets having ignored his family and advises Tom not to make the same mistake.
Betsy abruptly sells the family’s modest dwelling and moves them into Tom’s late grandmother’s mansion, “Dragonwyck,” only to find that Edward (Joseph Sweeney), the old woman’s longtime caretaker, is claiming that Tom’s grandmother had bequeathed him the estate. Judge Bernstein (Lee J. Cobb) intercedes and presents evidence that suggests that not only did Edward forge the bequest letter, but he also padded his bills, thus depleting the estate and accumulating a large fortune in the town’s bank that he could not otherwise explain. The Raths are able to keep the house.
At his new job, Tom runs into elevator operator Caesar (Keenan Wynn), a sergeant with whom he’d served in Italy. Caesar is married to Maria’s cousin and tells Tom that Maria and her son by Tom are desperate for money in their still war-ravaged country. Tom has kept his affair and child a secret from Betsy, but he now decides to tell her, remembering her admonition to be honest at all times. Betsy reacts angrily and speeds away recklessly in her car. They reconcile at the local police station. Tom and Betsy go to Judge Bernstein to set up a trust fund for Tom’s son in Italy. That night, Hopkins calls to ask Tom to accompany him on a trip to California in support of the new campaign. Tom declines, saying he just wants to “work 9 to 5 and spend the rest of the time with my family,” a decision Hopkins respectfully accepts.
- Gregory Peck as Tom Rath.
- Jennifer Jones as Betsy Rath.
- Fredric March as Ralph Hopkins.
- Marisa Pavan as Maria Montagne.
- Lee J. Cobb as Judge Bernstein.
- Ann Harding as Helen Hopkins.
- Keenan Wynn as Sgt. Caesar Gardella.
- Gene Lockhart as Bill Hawthorne.
- Gigi Perreau as Susan Hopkins.
- Portland Mason as Janey Rath.
- Arthur O’Connell as Gordon Walker.
- Henry Daniell as Bill Ogden.
- Connie Gilchrist as Mrs. Manter.
- Joseph Sweeney as Edward M. Schultz.
- Sandy Descher as Barbara Rath.
- It was entered at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
- DeForest Kelley, the future Dr. McCoy of Star Trek fame, plays a medic in an uncredited role.
- His first words in the film were “He’s dead captain.”
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Nunnally Johnson.
- Producer(s): Darryl F. Zanuck.
- Writer(s): Nunnally Johnson (screenplay) and Sloan Wilson (novel).
- Music: Bernard Hermann.
- Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke.
- Editor(s): Dorothy Spencer.
- Production: 20th Century Fox.
- Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox.
- Release Date: 12 April 1965.
- Running time: 153 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.