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


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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
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Did You Know?


Richard Attenborough (Jack Carter) would later direct Laurence Olivier (Police Constable 94-B) in Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) and A Bridge Too Far (1977), Robert Flemyng (Doctor in Surgery) in Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Young Winston (1972) and Shadowlands (1993), Michael Hordern (Official Receiver) in Gandhi (1982) and Michael Denison (Reporter) in Shadowlands (1993). See more »


In 1915 when Green's three eldest sons join the army, the landlord's agent mentions that the Spanish influenza is going around. In actuality the Spanish influenza did not begin until 1918. 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

Opening credits superimposed over tablets bearing the following inscriptions: THOMAS ALVA EDISON 1847 - 1931 THE INVENTOR OF MOTION PICTURES / ETIENNE-JULES MAREY 1830 - 1908 FONDATEUR DU CINEMA / LOUIS LE PRINCE 1842 - 1890 L'INVENTEUR DE LA CINEMATOGRAPHIE LOUIS LUMIERE 1864 - 1948 AVEC SON FRERE LE CREATEUR DU CINEMA MODERNE See more »


Featured in Great Performances: Laurence Olivier: A Life (1983) See more »


It's a Long Way To Tipperary
(1912) (uncredited)
Written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams
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User Reviews

The Magic Box is Magic ****
16 May 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Superb film often overlooked when we talk about the accomplishments of the late Robert Donat. Donat proved to be a fine character actor and too bad that he died so early; otherwise, there would have been more brilliant performances in store for him.

This film is the autobiography of William Friese Greene, who by the account of this fine film, made the moving picture literally move by camera.

The film is splendidly detailed and boasted a cast of every well known British star of that period.

If you blink an eye, you don't realize that the film goes back to his first marriage. Notice that nothing is really said about what happened to his children from both marriages.

Friese Greene was a kindly, devoted inventor who should never have married. He allowed his work to neglect his responsibilities as a husband and father. The man was a dreamer and Donat captured every movement of that dream.

This was certainly a stellar film.

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

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