The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson
The movie stars Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, Frederic March, Marisa Pavan, Lee J. Cobb, and Keenan Wynn. This is a complex movie with several sub-plots: flashbacks to World War II, a wartime love affair, pressure and support from a loving wife, children lost to TV westerns, a conniving old man after unearned compensation, whether to climb the corporate ladder and how to do so, the strength of family, and more. Gregory Peck does an excellent, understated acting job, one of his best. Jennifer Jones is powerfully emotional reacting to a long hidden secret. Frederic March is the quintessential big business man with his blind spots and personal failings. Lee J. Cobb does not get to yell a lot and wave his arms around, but is the perfect small town, pragmatic, cynical lawyer. All in all, this is an excellent movie with far more depth than is found in most of the films from the fifties.
In a television skit in the 1950’s Art Carney climbed out of a sewer in dirty overalls and said to Jackie Gleason, “What did you expect, the man in the gray flannel suit?” The title of the book had become a sort of national joke in the United States. The novel had risen up on bestseller lists and was translated into some twenty-six foreign languages. Europeans apparently considered it an accurate reflection of American life; it was banned in Russia. I was told I had a good story to tell about the problems which my generation faced when we came home from World War II. To my surprise, my novel, which I had regarded as largely autobiographical, was taken by some serious thinkers as a protest against conformity and the rigors of suburban life. --- Sloan Wilson
Michael Sandel’s book, Justice, is a bestseller in the United States today and reportedly has sold more than a million copies in East Asia. It’s subtitle is What’s the right thing to do? The novel we will discuss, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson, is about doing the right thing.
Here is the story of Tom and Betsy Rath, a young couple with everything going for them: three healthy children, a nice home, a steady income. They have every reason to be happy, but for some reason they are not. Like so many young men of the day Tom finds himself caught up in the corporate rat race---what he encounters there propels him on a voyage of self-discovery that will turn his world inside out. At once a searing indictment of corporate culture, a story of a young man confronting his past and future with honesty, and a testament to the enduring power of family. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a deeply rewarding novel about the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own life. --- from the book jacket