The Magic Box 1952

I hadn’t realised that the lovely actress Maria Schell was in this. She was later in that great film ‘So Little Time’ with Marius Goring – who actually was also in this film.

The film was also shown later in 1956 in the Kraft Television Theatre slot in America. NBC had purchased the film version for just one showing only and even then they trimmed the length of the film to 50 minutes.

Robert Donat give a typically moving performance as the British inventor who experimented with film making in his Bath studio.

This film was made for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and is notable not just as an interesting slice of nineteenth century history, but also for a parade of famous faces, all popping up in the film as though to pay homage to one of the founders of cinema.

In the cast are Laurence Olivier, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Holloway, Marius Goring, Sybil Thorndike, Sid James, Michael Redgrave, Joyce Grenfell, Michael Hordern and many more.

I remember Frederick Valk in ‘Dead of Night’

William Freise-Greene ( Robert Donat )

William Green had 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.

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.

Robert Donat with Maria Schell

With his wife played by Maria Schell

The film belongs to Robert Donat as the obsessed, but strangely appealing William Friese- Greene who helped give the world a new and universal medium of entertainment.

Robert Donat did not make many films but they are all memorable to such an extent that you always think of him as being prolific in the cinema. It is fair to say that he never gave a bad performance on the screen and William Friese-Greene ranks among his best.

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