Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)

In director/co-writer Nunnally Johnson's low-key, epic-length drama with romantic elements - it was based on the 1955 novel by Sloan Wilson (originally serialized in mid-1955 in Collier's Magazine), and featured a musical score by Hitchcock's favorite Bernard Herrmann; it told about a discontented 'Everyman' character, typical of the 1950s Eisenhower-era in the post-war period - the main character was a man of conscience who faced multiple issues and sought to find meaning and happiness in life; the film's main stars had previously performed together in Duel in the Sun (1946):

  • the film's main title character was Tom Rath (Gregory Peck), a hard-working, decent, stolid, middle-aged war veteran; the conservative-minded Rath in the mid-1950s faced challenging issues with conforming and reintegrating back into society - in both his career and married life; he struggled to fit into the post-war period as a corporate member of society
  • he currently had an "absolutely safe spot" job at a non-profit foundation in NYC earning $7,000 per year; in the opening, during one of his frequent round-trip train commutes between NYC and his suburban home in Connecticut (on the New Haven RR to Grand Central), he learned from his friend Bill Hawthorne (Gene Lockhart) of a job possibility in public relations at the New York-based United Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) that involved a pay raise, but also was advised: "I don't think you'd be very happy in that chromium jungle anyway"
  • after his train arrived at the station in Westport, Connecticut, he was picked up and driven in their old '49 Ford family car to his South Bay home in the middle-class suburbs (where he had lived for seven years) by his emotionally-overwrought wife Betsy Rath (Jennifer Jones); she was a dissatisfied, pushy, nagging homemaker who kept complaining about their financial situation, including a replacement for a broken washing machine and other needed fix-ups
  • Rath's three bratty, TV-addicted and hypnotized children (between the ages of 6 and 10) included young Pete (Mickey Maga), and two daughters Barbara (Sandy Descher, the star of Them! (1954)) and Janey (Portland Mason, the daughter of actor James Mason); throughout the film, they often ignored their father (they preferred Western cowboy TV shows, with stark depictions of good vs. evil) and seemed pre-occupied with the subject of death
  • then Tom received troubling news by phone from small-town Judge Alfred Bernstein (Lee J. Cobb), the executor of his grandmother's estate; the call was about problems with his hoped-for cash inheritance; he shared with Betsy that everything was depleted: "There's nothing left in Grandma's estate"; all that was left was an "old barn of a house" that also had an unpaid $10 thousand dollar mortgage; if they kept the place, it would cost about $6 thousand a year in upkeep and repairs
  • at this point, Betsy encouraged him to be more enterprising and to seek "promotions, opportunities, some good breaks... you can't just accept the way things are now"; she specifically wanted him to interview for a more prestigious job and salary with greater advancement possibilities; she complained about their current living situation and urged selling both houses and getting a better house in a nicer neighborhood: ("You know how I hate this house, but you don't know how much I hate it! Its ugliness, its depression, but most of all, its defeat...It's a graveyard, Tommy...It's not a happy house"); he disagreed with all of her bold suggestions: "I don't think this is any time to be taking chances," although she felt he was cowardly and unambitious since his war years: "You've lost your guts, and all of a sudden I'm ashamed of you"
  • the next day on the train, Rath asked his friend Hawthorne to set up an interview appointment for the PR job at UBC; Rath was suffering from PTSD angst and other emotional and social problems; while on the commuter train, he experienced the first of many frequent flashbacks to his memories of serving as an Army officer during WWII ten years earlier; he was haunted when he recalled stabbing a young German soldier with a fur-collared coat that he coveted
  • during a second flashback, Rath remembered that before being deployed to the Pacific Theatre of the war, he was stationed in Rome in June of 1945; he was filled with depression that he would never return home alive from the war to his wife Betsy; to allay his fears ("I got a little somethin' comin' down here's gonna take your mind off all that sort of thing"), Rath was introduced by his Army buddy Sgt. Caesar Gardella (Keenan Wynn) to a young pretty Italian woman named Maria Montagne (Marisa Pavan); he was glum about his future: "I wonder if I could interest you in a proposition to be my widow?"; but then after dinner when he was encouraged to be less pessimistic, he told her: "I like you very much, Maria. You're more than pretty. You're beautiful" - and they kissed during a moonlight ride in a carriage
Introduced to Maria Montagne (Marisa Pavan)
  • in her humble, small one-bedroom place that she shared with her cousin Gina (Sgt. Gardella's girlfriend) and Gina's mother (she explained how all the men in their families were dead), he was surprised when Maria asked him for something to eat: "If you could, perhaps, give me some Spam" - and he replied incredulously: "You mean you want Spam?"; she told him how she needed: "any kind of food in tins or boxes"
  • Rath's six-week war-time romance soon heated up, and on his last day and night with her, they spent time during a rainstorm in a bombed-out mansion with a bottle of wine and warm fire; he told her about his imminent departure, and she responded: "Everybody I know dies or leaves me"; she worried that he would forget her quickly: ("And then I'll never see you again. And you won't remember for long"), but he promised to remember her as long as he lived, even though he would be returning to his wife; he also added: "I wish I could forget you. It would be better. But I know I'll never be able to"; he thanked her for helping him to no longer think about getting killed, and instead live in the present
  • she described how she was lonely when they first met, but wouldn't be lonely ever again - she thought that she might be pregnant and prayed to have a child: "Now I think I'll never be Ionely again. I think I'm going to have someone of my own. My child...I pray for it morning and night.... I want my baby to hold and love - and love me, I hope, until I die" - the flashback ended
  • back in the present, Rath affirmed that he wished to have a noon interview scheduled for that day for the public relations position with the national TV broadcasting company; when he appeared on the 36th floor for his appointment, scheming and obsequious executive Gordon Walker (Arthur O'Connell) instructed him to write an autobiography (within one hour) about everything he could think of about himself, what kind of person he was, and why he wanted the job and should be hired; his written essay had to end with the sentence: "The most significant thing about me is..."; as Tom started to type his response, he experienced another of his many flashbacks to the war that were plaguing him
  • the third flashback occurred after a parachute drop when Captain Rath was ordered to create an assembly area with his platoon until reinforcing ground troops came up the beach; he recalled how he had accidentally killed his good friend Hank with a hand-grenade - and kept crazily insisting that Hank wasn't dead: ("He's not dead! Take another look at him!")
  • when he was brought back to reality in the UBC office, Rath realized his written answer would be very short, and that it revealed in a very bland, trivial and impersonal statement that he only believed he would do a good job after a period of learning, and wanted to offer no further speculations about the position; when he returned home to Betsy that evening, she became encouraged that life might become easier for them as a family (and they might take a short vacation trip to "shack" in Vermont)
  • fortunately for Rath, during the job application process, the powerful, go-getter businessman boss - network president Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March), took an instant liking to the tone of Tom's forthright, short and honest application and was interested in hiring him; Rath was being considered to write draft speeches for his boss for a nationwide mental health campaign - Hopkins' pet project
UBC Executives

President Ralph Hopkins (Fredric March)

Gordon Walker (Arthur O'Connell)

Bill Ogden (Henry Daniell)
  • Rath was called into Hopkins' office, where a doctor had just advised the workaholic executive to pay more attention to his health, slow down, get more rest, and work shorter days; before chief executive Hopkins was able to thoroughly discuss the position with Tom, he received a quick call from his estranged and alienated wife Helen Hopkins (Ann Harding) - revealing that he was also suffering problems on the domestic front; she begged him to intervene and attend to a situation that needed immediate attention, and remain more present in his family's lives; after briefly meeting with Rath and his top two executives over lunch, Hopkins seemed inclined to hire Rath, but first there was some negotiation about his yearly salary
  • Hopkins visited his estranged wife Helen's home in South Bay, CT, where she described her worries about their 18 year-old spoiled, rebellious, and unreasonable party-girl daughter Susan "Suzy" Hopkins (Gigi Perreau); she was reported to be hanging out in nightclubs with a "filthy crowd," including a notorious older fortune-hunting individual named Byron Holgate and a 45 year-old married writer-reviewer named Michael Patterson with an estranged wife and three children
  • Helen urged: "The point is that I can't do anything with her anymore....You've got to do something. This is the time for you to make up for all the things you've never done before"; she also mentioned the character of a second child - their idolized and now deceased son Bobby, who had been a model son who enlisted and then died during combat: ("He could've had a commission, but he turned it down, enlisted, because he thought that was the right thing to do"); Ralph explained to Helen that he had just met Rath, whom he described as someone who closely and physically resembled Bobby: ("A young man who reminded me of him. Same eyes and mouth. Same kind of smile")
  • Helen returned to the subject of their wild daughter Susan, and Ralph's responsibilities - with an ultimatum: "You've got to give her at least the same time and thought and attention that you give to a business proposition, a new station or, or one of your Sunday night programs...If you don't make this effort, I'll never want to see you again"; Ralph promised to take care of the issue immediately
  • more conflicts surfaced for the Rath family regarding his recently-deceased grandmother's suburban Connecticut house (known derisively by Betsy as "Dragonwyck") on 23 acres of land; Betsy explained her bold scheme to move into the South Bay property, and then change zoning laws to subdivide the acreage and make a profit of $100,000 dollars; she was prematurely counting on her husband's acquisition of the UBC job with a salary of $10,000 dollars
  • Rath was hired at UBC as a "special assistant" to Hopkins for a trial period of six months - he would be supervised by cold and unscrupulous manager Bill Ogden (Henry Daniell), who functioned as a politically-astute, flattering 'yes-man' assistant to the boss; Rath's first assignment was to prepare rough material for a speech to be delivered by his boss at a doctors' convention in Atlantic City in the middle of the next month
  • when he returned home to tell Betsy about his new position, he learned that she had abruptly sold their suburban home for $14,000 with immediate plans to move into his late grandmother's mansion; Rath and Betsy drove to the house to visit with Edward Schultz (Joseph Sweeney), the grandmother's long-time, corrupt caretaker-servant
  • during a violent argument with Rath in the house, Edward contested the will: ("The will's no good, because she told me I was in it"); he claimed that Mrs. Walter Rath's will had bequeathed the house to him, and he would sue for his rights to the house: ("Nobody's gonna swindle me out of my rights") ); Rath accused Edward of fraud: "The will leaves the house to me"; the caretaker asserted: "Either you're trying to cheat me or she did," and then revealed how he despised the old lady: "That crazy, old woman. She was filthy. She never bathed..."
  • Rath contacted probate Judge Bernstein by phone who assured him that there was no legal reason why the Raths couldn't still occupy the house; however, Edward's objection to the will (which would require evidence or proof) might affect Rath's inheritance of the property
  • later one evening while Rath was in Hopkins' city-suite/apartment speaking about his mental health campaign ("a truly holy cause") and speeches ("If only I could make these people believe me"), his daughter Susan arrived; Rath excused himself
  • during their long father-daughter discussion, Susan made it clear that she refused to go to college, and insisted instead on eloping or getting married; after her father began a long discussion about how she should responsibly handle all of her wealth, she claimed she didn't care about money or power: "I'm not interested in money. I think money's a bore"; Hopkins became worried about Susan's non-chalant attitude and told her: ("And, frankly, darling, leaving a lot of money to you would be like giving a gun to a baby"); she vowed to not let money ruin her life as it had destroyed her parents' lives: ("I'm not gonna let money ruin my life the way it's ruined yours and mother's")
  • he offered to help her and work with him: ("Now, I can't undo the past, but I would like to be of more help to you in the future") and suggested that she move into his apartment with him, to get to know each other better, and provide her with job placement assistance; Susan vowed she didn't want to work at all, and accused him of being incapable of loving anyone: ("You've never paid any attention to me before....Oh, what a hypocritical thing to say. You've hardly bothered to see me since I was born....Why can't you be honest about it? You don't love me, and you don't love Mother. To tell you the truth, I don't think you love anybody - and I don't wanna be like that"); she rejected anything offered to her: "I don't wanna have anything to do with you" as she stormed off to the elevator
  • meanwhile, Rath's five submissions of a draft for his boss' speech were summarily rejected by Ogden ("It's got no oomph") without any constructive criticism, although they had not been forwarded to the boss; Rath was removed from the assignment
  • Rath phoned Judge Bernstein to seek further legal advice about the ramifications of Schultz' dubious claims to the house; Bernstein had received from the caretaker a typewritten letter on Mrs. Rath's stationary, dated January 18, 1953, with her alleged signature, that stated: "....I hereby bequeath my entire possessions including my house and land to Edward F. Schultz, who has served me faithfully for more than 30 years"; the courts would have to settle the dispute
  • in Hopkins' office, Rath was shown Ogden's alternative, platitude-filled empty speech that had been suggested to the boss by "the boys"; Rath realized that he would be asked the next day by Hopkins to provide his honest opinion of the speech; later that evening at home with Betsy, she truthfully criticized the alternate speech draft as boring, a "little silly" and then as "dreadful"; they argued about how to handle his response to Ogden; the issue in the "loaded situation" became -- Should he tell the boss the truth, or please him by playing along and telling him only what he wanted to hear (so that he wouldn't lose his job)
  • Betsy coaxed him to be less wishy-washy and show some honesty and "guts" and not be a yes-man: ("The real idea was that I wanted you to go out and fight for something again like the fellow I married, not to turn into a cheap, slippery yes-man"); however, Tom felt he must abide by 'office-politics' with concerns about how his integrity had become more difficult with a wife and three children; Rath affirmed: "I never wanted to get into this rat race, but now that I'm in it, I think I'd be an idiot not to play it the way everybody else plays it"; she ended the conversation by questioning his integrity as a decent man, and wondering whether he had compromised the truth in other situations: ("...for a decent man, there's never any peace of mind without honesty. I've always thought of you as a decent man. Right now it just makes me wonder how long it'll be before you decide it'll be simpler and safer not to tell me the truth")
  • the next morning in his office, Judge Bernstein accused Schultz of being dishonest by possibly forging the bequest letter, taking advantage of Mrs. Rath's near-sightedness, getting kickbacks from her padded checks (that he signed or typed) when he paid bills to tradesmen, and his "enormous bank balance" after having fraudulently cleaned out her savings and accumulated a large fortune of over $78,000 in his bank account; Bernstein claimed it was easier to be slick in the city than in a small-town: ("That's what's so interesting about a small town. You ask around about somebody who's lived there for a while and you'd be surprised what all the people have found out about him. If you're gonna be slick, the smart thing is to be slick in the city. They're dumber there")
  • then Rath visited his boss in his suite-apartment, and turned cowardly at first and judged Ogden's alternate speech as acceptable; but then, he listened to Hopkins' receipt of a distressing phone call about his daughter eloping and getting married in Greenwich, CT to Holgate that same morning; Rath abruptly changed his initial critique of the speech - and called it "phony" and "untrue" for presenting Hopkins as "a very simple, uninformed man" who was unaware of the problems in mental health, although the audience would know differently; Rath proposed another approach: "I'd tackle these people on very practical grounds. I would tell them what I was equipped to do, better than anybody else in this country"; Hopkins viewed the advice as "very helpful," and then due to Rath's honest assessment, Hopkins was reminded of how his son Bobby had done "the right thing" during WWII by refusing an officer's commission and was subsequently killed in action as an enlisted private
  • in the film's most crucial turning-point sequence, Hopkins instructed Rath to spend more time with his own kids: ("Don't let anything keep you away from your family"); he then reminisced about how he had treated his business affairs as a top priority, rather than balancing his work with his family life - it was something he now regretted; the only way that he had found success was by devoting his entire life, body, and soul to it; and family-men couldn't run big successful businesses: ("Somebody's got to do it. Somebody's got to dedicate himself to it. Big successful businesses just aren't built by men like you. 9 to 5 and home and family. You live on 'em but you never built one. Big successful business are built by men like me. They give everything they got to it. Live it body and soul. Lift it up regardless of anybody or anything else. Without men like me, there wouldn't be any big successful businesses. My mistake was in being one of those men"); Rath came to realize that the success of his boss had come at the cost of personal happiness, and at the expense of his family
  • as Rath entered his work building's elevator, he came across his old Army friend Sgt. Gardella; at 5:30 pm that evening in the building's bar over cocktails, Gardella told Rath how he had married his Italian girlfriend Gina (Maria's cousin), and how Maria had also married a lame fellow named Louis Lapa a few months after they left; Rath described how he had written to Maria after the war, but hadn't received a reply; Gardella told him that Maria had a little boy, and had moved in with Gina's mother in Italy during desperate, tough, war-ravaged times; Gardella was helping to support both families; Rath asked about Maria's husband and was told he was killed a few years earlier during a riot
  • Gardella handed Tom a sealed letter addressed to him from Maria, with an enclosed picture of her son: (excerpt: "The boy needs help. He's a good boy"); Tom began to suspect that his war-time romance had led to her impregnation; their love-making had produced a secret love child son and he felt obligated to send money to her; his first inclination was to keep his past relationship private: ("I'll have to keep my wife from knowing, of course"), but he would inevitably be forced to honestly acknowledge to his wife and family what had happened during the war, especially now since he felt personal responsibility and was compelled to offer paternity support for Maria of $100 a month
  • when he returned home to Betsy that evening, he confessed two instances to illustrate his honesty and truthfulness; first, he explained how he had told his boss, with absolute candor, that the alternative speech was terrible; and then he brought up a subject that wouldn't be "easy" - he had just learned that during the war in Italy, he had fathered an illegitimate child and now vowed to help support the mother and especially her son; he loved her then, but did not love her now; he asked for Betsy's understanding about the stresses of war he faced at the time: ("I don't know how to make you realize the way things were then"); he remembered killing a total of 17 men close-up during combat, slitting a young German soldier's throat for his coat, and killed his best friend with a grenade; he explained how he met the girl when he was at his most hopeless, scared and depressed state: "When I met this girl, I was sure that I'd never see you again. I was certain that I'd be killed in the next action"
  • Betsy told Tom how she had almost gone crazy during the summer he was involved with Maria in mid-1975 when she didn't hear from him; she began to doubt their current empty relationship and asked torturous questions: "Did she love you more than I do? Were you happier when you loved her?...Do you think of her now when you're kissing me?"; although Tom vowed he loved his wife more than ever: ("You told me to be honest, and I'm being honest. I've never loved you as much in my life as I love you at this minute. And I've never wanted anything so much in my whole life as I want your understanding")
  • the enraged and betrayed Betsy told him not to touch her and ran out of the house where they collapsed together on the lawn; she suggested that he go back to Italy, but he replied it was unnecessary since he had already made his choice and was dedicated to her ("I made it up the first minute I ever saw you"); she recklessly raced off in the family car, and by the next morning, Tom was summoned to the South Bay police station to pick her up after she ran out of gas and was located walking on the Merritt Parkway
  • as the film ended, Rath was suffering with multiple family issues, when he received a phone-call request from his boss to accompany him to California for business regarding the health campaign, Tom declined when he decided to forgo career advancement in favor of spending more time with his family as a '9 to 5' man: ("Well, you remember those 9:00 to 5:00 fellas you were talking about?... I'm afraid I'm one of them"); he finally realized that the fate of his workaholic boss was also happening to him; Hopkins respectfully accepted Tom's reasoning about how he needed to remain home, but also asked Tom to provide him with his version of the speech ("We'll go over it together, and you can work on it while I'm away")
  • in the conclusion set in Judge Bernstein's office, Tom (with a reconciled Betsy in attendance) asked for the Judge to help handle a "personal matter" - regular monthly payments of $100 to an unmarred mother Maria in Italy, but without personal correspondence; Betsy added that they eventually wanted to set up a trust fund for the young son; moved by Betsy's added gesture, Bernstein offered his services for free, and noted: "God's in his heaven - all's right with the world"

Final Scene in Judge Bernstein's Office

Tom to Betsy: "Would you mind if I tell you, I worship you?"
  • after they left the office and sat in their car, Tom expressed his love for Betsy: "Would you mind if I tell you, I worship you?" and they smiled, embraced, and kissed

Tom Rath (Gregory Peck)

Betsy Rath (Jennifer Jones)

On the Train with Bill Hawthorne (Gene Lockhart), Tom Expressed an Interest in a Job Interview

Tom's First Troubling Flashback to War Years

Tom Stabbing a Young German Soldier To Acquire His Coat

Rath's Second Flashback with Sgt. Gardella (Keenan Wynn) in Rome, Italy, Before Deployment to the Pacific

Tom's Heated Romance with Maria Montagne (Marisa Pavan)

Last Night Together with Maria in Bombed-Out Mansion

Rath Typing Out Application Essay at UBC

Third Flashback: When Tom Denied His Best Friend Hank Was Dead

With Wife Betsy, Telling Her About His UBC Job Application

Hopkins' Estranged Wife Helen (Ann Harding)

Grandmother's Home: "Dragonwyck"

Rath's Violent Argument with Caretaker Edward Schultz (Joseph Sweeney) Over His Grandmother's Will

Probate Judge Bernstein (Lee J. Cobb)

Elevator Operator Sgt. Gardella

Hopkins' 18 Year Old Daughter Susan ("Suzy")

Edward Schultz Accused of Being a Dishonest Man in the Judge's Office

News of Hopkins' Daughter's Elopement - Distressing to Her Parents

Rath's Honest Advice on the Convention Speech to His Boss Hopkins

Hopkins' Regret About Devoting His Entire Life to Business Rather Than His Family

Rath with Sgt. Gardella, Now an Elevator Operator

Rath Reading Maria's Letter to Him About Her Boy

Picture of Maria's Son

Divulging to Betsy That He Fathered a Son in Italy During the War

Betsy's Enragement and Feelings of Betrayal Over Tom's Confession

Collapsed Together on Front Lawn


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