Although The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (dir. Nunnally Johnson, US, 1956) ostensibly focuses on Tom Rath (Gregory Peck), the production of the screenplay and shooting largely revolved around actress Jennifer Jones's characterization of Betsy Rath, a stay-at-home wife and mother with more motivation, vision for the future, and sense of personal and domestic power than her husband. This article explores the complexities of Jones's star image in 1955–56 through a series of production memos authored principally by her husband, producer David O. Selznick. To a certain extent, writer-director Johnson and producer Darryl F. Zanuck's eventual taming of Jones's power on the set mirrored the script's struggles between Betsy and her husband. But an analysis of the film and its production contexts also highlights the consequences of creating a masculine melodrama in a system that depended on the visual display of women. In making Peck and his gray flannel suit the weak center of a postwar narrative of personal discontent and adultery, Zanuck and Johnson fundamentally destabilized gender hierarchies. They also created a formidable but equally conflicted counterpart to America's army of gray flannel suits: the Organization Woman.
J. E. Smyth; The Organization Woman behind The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Camera Obscura 1 September 2012; 27 (2 (80)): 61–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-1597213
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