The Magic Box (1951)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  21 January 1952 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 856 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 11 critic

The story of William Friese-Greene, a British inventor who (this film would have you think) made the first movie camera.



(based on the biography: "Friese-Greene, Close Up of an Inventor"), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Miss Tagg (as Renee Asherson)
Jack Carter
Martin Boddey ...
Sitter in Bath Studio
Edward Chapman ...
Father in Family Group
John Charlesworth ...
Graham Friese-Greene
Maurice Colbourne ...
Bride's Father in Wedding Group
Roland Culver ...
1st Company Promoter
John Howard Davies ...
Maurice Friese-Greene
Michael Denison ...
Joan Dowling ...
Henry Edwards ...
Butler at Fox Talbot's
Mary Ellis ...
Mrs. Nell Collings
Marjorie Fielding ...
Elderly Viscountess


Now old, ill, poor, and largely forgotten, William Freise-Greene was once very different. As young and handsome William Green he changed his name to include his first wife's so that it sounded more impressive for the photographic portrait work he was so good at. But he was also an inventor and his search for a way to project moving pictures became an obsession that ultimately changed the life of all those he loved. Written by Jeremy Perkins <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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!


Biography | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 January 1952 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Caixa Mágica  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD) | (edited) | (TV)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)


(Technicolor) (as Colour by Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Thora Hird (Housekeeper) was the real life mother of Janette Scott (Ethel Friese-Greene). See more »


The middle-aged Friese-Greene is shown meeting William Fox-Talbot, who actually died when the former was only 22. See more »


William Fox-Talbot: The original thinker - the innovator - mustn't mind seeming a little foolish to his contemporaries. He must always look to his star... In the end, he may still fail. That's unimportant. If he is true to himself, he won't be too unhappy or embittered, even in failure, and will still speak for what is good.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing credits superimposed over the tablet bearing the following: WILLIAM FRIESE-GREENE 1855 - 1921 A PIONEER OF THE CINEMA See more »


Referenced in London Entertains (1951) See more »


Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile
(1915) (uncredited)
Written by George Asaf and Felix Powell
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User Reviews

Loose biography of film pioneer William Friese-Green
11 October 1999 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Probably one of the finest films about film to be produced. Made for the Festival of Britain in 1951, the cast boasts just about every major British star of the time. The plot involves a somewhat fictionalized history of English motion picture pioneer William Friese-Green. It is technically excellent, period details are superb and the script intelligent and poignant. Donat, as Friese-Green, is superb. The sequence where he shows an awestruck local Bobby (Laurence Olivier) the first projected motion picture image is stunning. For lovers of early film....indeed all film....this movie is a must.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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