The Magic Box (1952)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The Magic Box was the English film industry's contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Its all-star cast generously forsook their usual salaries for the privilege of paying tribute to that unsung pioneer of cinema, William Friese-Greene, here played by Robert Donat. Adapted by Eric Ambler from the controversial biography by Ray Allister, Magic Box contends that Friese-Greene was the true father of motion pictures, and not such upstarts as W. K. L. Dickson and Thomas Edison. Told in flashback, the film details Friese-Greene's tireless experiments with the "moving image," leading inexorably to a series of failures and disappoints, as others hog the credit for the protagonist's discoveries. The huge cast includes such British film luminaries as Joyce Grenfell, Miles Malleson, Michael Redgrave, Eric Portman, Emlyn Williams, Richard Attenborough, Peter Ustinov, Cecil Parker, Kay Walsh, and, best of all, Laurence Olivier as the confused bobby who witnesses Friese-Greene's first motion picture demonstration. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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Robert Donat
as William Friese-Greene
Margaret Johnston
as Edith Harrison
Maria Schell
as Helena Friese-Greene
Robert Beatty
as Lord Beaverbrook
John Charlesworth
as Graham Friese-Greene
James Kenney
as Kenneth Friese-Greene
Bernard Miles
as Cousin Alfred
Joyce Grenfell
as Mrs. Claire
Miles Malleson
as Orchestra Conductor
Laurence Olivier
as Police Constable 94-B (uncredited)
Eric Portman
as Arthur Collings
Emlyn Williams
as Bank Manager
David Oake
as Claude Friese-Greene
Janette Scott
as Ethel Friese-Greene
Richard Attenborough
as Jack Carter
Basil Sydney
as William Fox-Talbot
Kay Walsh
as Hotel Receptionist
Martin Boddey
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Edward Chapman
as Father in Family Group
Maurice Colbourne
as Bride's Father at Wedding
Roland Culver
as 1st Company Promoter
John Howard Davies
as Maurice Friese-Greene
Michael Denison
as Reporter
Joan Dowling
as Friese-Greene Maid
Henry Edwards
as Butler at Fox Talbot's
Mary Ellis
as Mrs. Collings
Robert Flemyng
as Doctor in Surgery
Leo Genn
as Dacres
Marius Goring
as House Agent
Everley Gregg
as Bridegroom's Mother at Wedding
Robertson Hare
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Kathleen Harrison
as Mother in Family Group
William Hartnell
as Recruiting Sergeant
Joan Hickson
as Mrs. Stukely
Thora Hird
as Doctor's Housekeeper
Patrick Holt
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Michael Hordern
as Official Receiver
Jack Hulbert
as 1st Holborn Policeman
Sidney James
as Sergeant in Storeroom
Barry Jones
as Bath Doctor
Ann Lancaster
as Bridesmaid in Wedding Group
Herbert Lomas
as Warehouse Manager
John Longden
as Speaker in Connaught Rooms
Garry Marsh
as 2nd Company Promoter
Muir Mathieson
as Sir Arthur Sullivan
A.E. Matthews
as Old Gentleman Bond St. Studio
John McCallum
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Richard Murdoch
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Frank Pettingell
as Bridegroom's Father at Wedding
Norman Pierce
as Speaker in Connaught Rooms
Dennis Price
as Harold
Peter Reynolds
as Bridegroom Wedding Group
Ronald Shiner
as Fairground Barker
Sheila Sim
as Nursemaid
Marianne Stone
as Bride in Wedding Group
John Stuart
as 2nd Platform Man at Connaught
Sybil Thorndike
as Sitter in Bath Studio
David Tomlinson
as Assistant in Laboratory
Cecil Trouncer
as John Rudge
Michael Trubshawe
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Charles Victor
as Industry Man Connaught Rooms
Norman Watson
as Doctor in Connaught Rooms
Harcourt Williams
as Tom Workman at Lege & Co.
Googie Withers
as Sitter in Bath Studio
Joan Young
as Glove Shop "Dragon"
Marjorie Fielding
as Elderly Viscountess
Stanley Holloway
as Broker's Man
Glynis Johns
as May Jones
Peter Jones
as Industry Man Connaught Rooms
Bessie Love
as Bride's Mother Wedding Group
Cecil Parker
as 1st Platform Man at Connaught
Peter Ustinov
as Industry Man
Renée Ashershon
as Miss Tagg
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Critic Reviews for The Magic Box

All Critics (1)

Proves to be a curious work despite its flaws.

Full Review… | January 28, 2014
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Magic Box

Excellent story of William Friese-Greene, one of the pioneers in the development of the motion picture. Wonderfully played by Robert Donat, nice production values and a solid screenplay that uncharacteristically does not portray the inventor always in a positive light. That's unusual, especially in the era it was filmed. A wonderful film.

James Higgins
James Higgins

Original and beautiful looking film about one of the inventors of the movie camera. Jack Cardiff's stark color cinematography along with John Boulting's great direction of the all-star cast is really worth seeing. What was original was how the flashbacks were handled. It starts off with Donat as a old man,then middle age, and then young, very original for the time and very effective. It goes into great detail on how William Friese-Green went from a great successful photographer to a obsessive scientist risking everything to develop a new medium. The scene between Donat and Olivier with the first viewing of motion pictures is amazing.

cody franklin
cody franklin

Super Reviewer

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