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The Magic Box (1951)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 21 January 1952 (UK)
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 ... 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 (Robert Donat) 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 at which he was so good. 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 {J-26}

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

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

This movie takes place from 1874 to May 5, 1921. See more »

Goofs

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 »

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

Opening credits prologue: WILLIAM FRIESE-GREENE 1855 1921 followed by the year 1921 See more »

Connections

Referenced in Inside the Actors Studio: Martin Scorsese (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Choral Concert
(uncredited)
Words and Music by William Alwyn
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Wonderful Robert Donat!
24 April 2005 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

A first-class actor ,playing a character from his youth to an old man,with the same talent:he is as convincing as the mischievous boy who takes photographs unbeknown to his boss as the old man who tries to save the seventh art from the moneychangers in the Temple . The film has an unusually inventive construction:it is roughly made of two flashbacks ,but the first one takes place after the second one."The magic box" tells the story of a pioneer of the cinema who died in dire straits ("that's the price for a seat for pictures" )His destiny resembles that of Georges Méliès who ended his life selling candies in a railway station and who never complained about his fate.Geniuses often die unnoticed.The cinematography is splendid with tasteful colors ,the dialog does not forget humor (Donat:"Enjoy yourselves!Schell:"We're going to the church!!"),and there are very powerful scenes:the concert where Schell sings a moving solo "Where is he?I know not!I know not!";an ecstatic Donat showing his film to a constable .The cast is incredibly various and includes such luminaries as Laurence Olivier,Margaret Rutherford,Peter Ustinov,Stanley Holloway and more ,all in supporting parts or even often cameos.

How prophetic the pioneer's last words were!


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