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The Magic Box

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Director  John Boulting
Music director  William Alwyn
Language  English
7.1/10 IMDb

Genre  Biography, Drama
Screenplay  Eric Ambler, Ray Allister
Country  UK
The Magic Box movie poster
Release date  1951
Writer  Ray Allister (based on the biography: "Friese-Greene, Close Up of an Inventor"), Eric Ambler (screenplay)
Directors  Roy Boulting, John Boulting
Cast  Robert Donat (William Friese-Greene), Margaret Johnston (Edith Harrison Friese-Greene), Maria Schell (Helena Friese-Greene), Richard Attenborough (Jack Carter), Robert Beatty (Lord Beaverbrook), Renée Asherson (Miss Tagg)
Similar movies  Related Roy Boulting movies
Tagline  A rich and deeply moving story of a man whose achievement opened up a new world, and of the two women whose love and sacrifices made it possible!

The magic box 1951 you must be a very happy man

The Magic Box is a 1951 British, Technicolor, biographical drama film, directed by John Boulting. The film stars Robert Donat as William Friese-Greene, with a host of cameo appearances by actors including Peter Ustinov and Laurence Olivier. It was produced by Ronald Neame and distributed by British Lion Film Corporation. The film was a project of the Festival of Britain and adapted by Eric Ambler from the controversial biography by Ray Allister.


The Magic Box movie scenes

This biographical drama gives an account of the life of William Friese-Greene, who first designed and patented one of the earliest working cinematic cameras. Told in flashback, the film details Friese-Greene's tireless experiments with the "moving image", leading inexorably to a series of failures and disappointments, as others hog the credit for the protagonist's discoveries.

The Magic Box The Magic Box by Kit Wright by ooee4 Teaching Resources Tes

The magic box 1951


The Magic Box The magic box class5 web

In 1921, William Friese-Greene, in dire financial straits and separated from his wife, but still working, attends a film conference in London. He is saddened that all those attending are businessmen interested only in moneymaking. He attempts to speak, but no-one is interested and he sits down. He thinks back to his early pioneering days.

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Young "Willie" works as an assistant to photographer Maurice Guttenberg, who will not let him take portraits his way. He leaves and, with his new wife, a client of his former employer, he opens a studio. After a slow start, he does well and opens other studios, but he is more interested in developing moving pictures and colour films. He single-mindedly works on his ideas, spending more and more money, and is eventually declared bankrupt. With the coming of World War I, their sons (one under age) enlist in the army to relieve their parents of the burden of providing for them.

In partnership with a businessman, he develops his ideas, but the partnership sours and he's on his own, bankrupt, again. Nevertheless, he perseveres and, late one night, he projects the short film he has taken in Hyde Park that afternoon. Excited, he rushes out and drags in a passing policeman, portrayed by Laurence Olivier (credited as Larry Oliver), to witness the success of the film. The policeman is dumbfounded, not quite comprehending what he has just seen.

Back at the conference, Friese-Greene again stands up to speak, but becomes incoherent and is forced to sit down. He collapses. A doctor is called, but it is too late. Examining the contents of his pockets in an attempt to identify him, the doctor comments that all the money he could find was just enough for a ticket to the cinema.


  • Robert Donat as William Friese-Greene
  • Margaret Johnston as Edith Harrison
  • Maria Schell as Helena Friese-Greene
  • David Oake as Claude Friese-Greene
  • Janette Scott as Ethel Friese-Greene
  • John Howard Davies as Maurice Friese-Greene
  • Robert Beatty as Lord Beaverbrook
  • Richard Attenborough as Jack Carter
  • Basil Sydney as William Fox Talbot
  • Bernard Miles as Cousin Alfred
  • Eric Portman as Arthur Collings
  • Mary Ellis as Mrs Collings
  • Muir Mathieson as Sir Arthur Sullivan
  • Joyce Grenfell as Mrs Claire
  • Dennis Price as Harold
  • Margaret Rutherford as Lady Pond
  • Mervyn Johns as Goitz
  • Glynis Johns as May Jones
  • Frederick Valk as Maurice Guttenberg
  • Ronald Shiner as the Fairground Barker
  • Peter Reynolds as Bridegroom
  • Cameos

  • Barry Jones as a doctor
  • Bessie Love as wedding group member
  • Cecil Parker at the Connaught Rooms
  • Cecil Trouncer as John Rudge
  • David Tomlinson as a Lab Assistant
  • Emlyn Williams as a Bank Manager
  • Ernest Thesiger as "man"
  • Kay Walsh as a receptionist
  • Laurence Olivier and Jack Hulbert as Police officers
  • Leo Genn as a doctor
  • Marius Goring as an estate agent
  • Michael Denison as a reporter
  • Michael Hordern as the Official Receiver
  • Miles Malleson as an orchestra conductor
  • Peter Ustinov as an "industry man"
  • Sheila Sim as a nursemaid
  • Sid James as an Army sergeant in storeroom
  • Stanley Holloway as a broker's man
  • Thora Hird as a housekeeper
  • William Hartnell as a Recruiting sergeant
  • Googie Withers, A. E. Matthews, John McCallum, Patrick Holt, Robertson Hare, Richard Murdoch and Sybil Thorndike as sitters
  • Henry Edwards as the Butler at Fox Talbot's
  • Renee Asherson as Miss Tagg
  • Martin Boddey as SItter in Bath Studio
  • Edward Chapman as Father in family group
  • Maurice Colbourne as Bride's father in wedding group
  • Roland Culver as 1st Company promoter
  • Joan Dowling as Maggie
  • Marjorie Fielding as Elderly Viscountess
  • Robert Flemyng as Doctor in surgery
  • Everley Gregg as Bridegroom's mother in wedding group
  • Kathleen Harrison as Mother in family group
  • Joan Hickson as Mrs Stukely
  • Jack Hulbert as 1st Holborn Policeman
  • Peter Jones as Industry Man
  • Ann Lancaster as Bridesmaid in Wedding Group
  • Herbert Lomas as Warehouse manager
  • John Longden as Speaker in Connaught rooms
  • Garry Marsh as Second company promoter
  • Michael Trubshawe as Sitter in Bath studio
  • Amy Veness as Grandmother in wedding group
  • Charles Victor as Industry man
  • Harcourt Williams as Tom
  • Frank Pettingell as Bridegroos father in Wedding Group
  • Norman Pierce as Speaker in Connaught rooms
  • Michael Redgrave as Mr. Lege
  • Oda Slobodskaya as Soloist at Bath concert
  • John Stuart as 2nd Platform man at Connaught
  • Marianne Stone as Bride in wedding group
  • Release

    The film was completed and shown just before the end of the 1951 Festival of Britain, but it did not go on general release until 1952.


    The film was nominated for two BAFTA Awards in 1952—BAFTA Award for Best Film and BAFTA Award for Best British Film.


    The Magic Box Wikipedia
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