The Magic Box

The Magic Box


The Magic Box

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The Magic Box is a 1951 British, Technicolor, biographical drama film, directed by John Boulting and starring Ronald Shiner as the Fairground Barker, Sid James, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Charles Victor. It was produced by Ronald Neame and distributed by British Lion Film Corporation. The film was a project of the Festival of Britain and adapted by Eric Ambler from the controversial biography by Ray Allister.

Plot summary

This biographical drama gives an account of William Friese-Greene, who first designed and patented a working cinematic camera. This claim is subject to some controversy, but evidence now tends to support it. The film was notable for its cast: many well-known British film actors appeared in cameos (as listed below). It was completed and shown just before the end of the Festival, but the general release was not until 1952. William Friese-Greene is played by Robert Donat. Told in flashback, the film details Friese-Greene's tireless experiments with the "moving image," leading inexorably to a series of failures and disappointments, as others hog the credit for the protagonist's discoveries.

It was nominated for two BAFTA Awards in 1952—Best Film and Best British Film.


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