THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children, commuting into New York for work on Madison Avenue. ‘The Man’ is haunted by his war memories, badgered and belittled by his acquisitive wife, ignored by his kids, frustrated to disgust by the petty backstabbing that surrounds him on the job.
Sloan Wilson’s 1955 best-seller became and remains a sociological touchstone, applauded then for its astute capture of the plight of millions of anonymous guys filling the freeways and trains; referenced today because the ennui hasn’t gone away, even if most of the Middle Class has. Screenwriter-director Nunnally Johnson took Wilson’s novel and fashioned 153 minutes of intelligent adult drama with empathetic heart, nuggets of insight and humor, passages of vivid action.
Gregory Peck as the beleaguered hero, Jennifer Jones as his nervous wife and Fredric March as the boss of Peck’s other bosses are all credible. The large supporting cast is solid, with kudos to Henry Daniell as an insufferably snide executive and Marisa Pavan, gentle as Peck’s most bittersweet war memory from overseas. Harsher recall is vivid in a stunning barrage sequence on a Pacific isle. Bernard Herrmann’s score subtly hints at the protagonists melancholy. The production set Fox back $2,670,000, and landed in the 14th spot of the years successes, earning $12,430,000.
Dissatisfaction with the business of life being ground down by the life of business had featured prior to this, as far back as Dodsworth (1936) and The Hucksters (1947), but it really landed a flurry of punches in the 50s, giving this polished story good ‘company’ by way of Executive Suite, Womans World, The Best Of Everything and Patterns.
With Lee J. Cobb, Keenan Wynn, Ann Harding, Gene Lockhart, Gigi Perreau, Arthur O’Connell, Connie Gilchrist and Kenneth Tobey. Three people in bit parts would become familiar in the next decade: DeForest Kelley, who would perform cures for Star Trek , Johnny Crawford who would perform chores for The Rifleman and Joy Harmon, who would perform history’s most notable car wash for Cool Hand Luke.