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The Magic Box (1951)

A chronicle of the life of William Friese-Greene, a British inventor and early pioneer in cinema.

Director:

John Boulting

Writers:

Ray Allister (based on the biography: "Friese-Greene, Close Up of an Inventor"), Eric Ambler (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Renée Asherson ... Miss Tagg (as Renee Asherson)
Richard Attenborough ... Jack Carter
Robert Beatty ... Lord Beaverbrook
Martin Boddey ... Sitter in Bath Studio
Edward Chapman ... Father in Family Group
John Charlesworth John Charlesworth ... Graham Friese-Greene
Maurice Colbourne ... Bride's Father in Wedding Group
Roland Culver ... 1st Company Promoter
John Howard Davies John Howard Davies ... Maurice Friese-Greene
Michael Denison ... Reporter
Robert Donat ... William Friese-Greene
Joan Dowling Joan Dowling ... Maggie
Henry Edwards ... Butler at Fox Talbot's
Mary Ellis ... Mrs. Nell Collings
Marjorie Fielding Marjorie Fielding ... Elderly Viscountess
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Storyline

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 <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

One of the world's great actors in the crowning performance of his career. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 January 1952 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Caixa Mágica See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Festival Film Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (Colour by) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Amy Veness, shown in the cast list as "Undetermined Role", can be identified as the elderly lady in black, a grandmother presumably, in the first wedding group we see being photographed in Mr.Guttenberg's (Frederick Valk's) studio. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Edited into Kraft Theatre: The Magic Box (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Let the Great Big World Keep Turning
(1917) (uncredited)
Written by Nat Ayer and Clifford Grey
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Terrific film for film collectors and film buffs
8 January 2006 | by padsettSee all my reviews

This is the 1951 feature made by the British film industry to celebrate the festival of Britain. The film stars a virtual who's who of all the famous British cinema actors of that time, and one of the fun things about this film is trying to identify all of them as they pop up in various cameo roles. The story is the biography of William Friese- Greene, who this film claims invented the motion picture camera and projector. Edison and Lumiere are casually acknowledged as also being motion picture pioneers, but Friese-Greene is claimed to have had the first intermittent mechanism (presumably the Maltese cross) used in today's cinema projectors. It also claims that he invented the biocolour process, where color motion pictures are produced by rotating two color filters in front of the camera and projector (KinemaColour). The lead role is beautifully played by Robert Donat as the quiet intense inventor obsessed with producing moving photographs, and his wife is competently played by Maria Schell. Also appearing in cameo roles are Michael Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Holloway, Michael Dennison, the great Dennis Price, the beautiful Glynnis Johns and her father Mervyn Johns, the eccentric Joyce Grenfell, the wonderful Margeret Rutherford, and a host of others too long to mention. The most famous cameo is by Sir Laurence Olivier, as the astonished policeman who witnesses Friese-Greene's first triumph, the projection of moving images of Hyde Park on an improvised sheet screen. This is the most remembered scene of the film, and Friese Greene's excitement at this event reminded me of my own excitement when I first turned the handle on my first Pathescope 9.5mm projector! The film is of great interest to film collectors and movie buffs, containing beautiful shots of old wood and brass magic lanterns and early movie equipment. There are many wonderful scenes, such as the Victorian photo studio where they show customers having to stand absolutely still for 30 seconds to get their photo taken! The film was produced by Roy Boulting, and the beautiful Victorian settings and costumes are sumptuously photographed by Jack Cardiff. My family and friends really enjoyed this movie, it is low key almost like a BBC period drama, but if you are a film collector you will love it. We take the showing of films in our homes for granted these days, and it easy to forget the real struggle by inventors such as Friese- Greene to achieve what seemed impossible at the time. American audiences will of course have to (at least temporarily) suspend their belief that Edison was the sole inventor of the motion picture camera ( in fact Edison was primarily a business man and entrepreneur who copied many of the motion picture concepts developed by Lumiere in France) This film is very rare indeed. I don't think it exists on VHS or DVD,(certainly not in the USA), however Super 8mm film prints do exist, so if you find an S8 print grab it! My particular super 8 print is a 2400 ft Agfa color print, pin sharp with beautiful rich colors and great contrast. The mono magnetic track sound quality is very good for a film of 1951 vintage. Highly recommended, if you can find it.


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