The Magic Box 1951

 

Director: John Boulting

 

Writers: Ray AllisterEric Ambler

Rôle: The House Agent

 

Release Date: 18 September 1951

 

Synopsis: A chronicle of the life of William Friese-Greene, a British inventor and early pioneer in cinema. Marius is seen in a brief scene with Maria Schell. They would star together the following year in So Little Time.

Comment: The cinematographer is Jack Cardiff who filmed a number of Marius's Technicolor films, notably 'A Matter of Life and Death' (1946) and 'The Red Shoes' (1948).

Reviews: From a review of the film in Empire magazine: "This, then, is the hero of this triumphalist biopic, which paid scant heed to fact as it sought to produce a fitting film to screen at the 1951 Festival of Britain. No one could blame the Boulting brothers or Eric Ambler, who based his screenplay on Ray Allister's book, Friese-Greene, Close-Up of an Inventor, which purported to be an accurate account of his life and accomplishments. All they did was rearrange the events around two extended flashbacks to make them more dramatically satisfying - and they rousingly succeeded.

They also shrewdly cast Robert Donat in the leading role, who proceeded to turn Friese-Greene into a cousin of Mr Chipping and made him seem like a typically plucky British also-ran. Moreover, they surrounded him with a galaxy of co-stars to reinforce the celebratory nature of the project and imply that without Friese-Greene's indomitable ingenuity none of them would be where they were today. But the master stroke was the procurement of Laurence Olivier to play the night-beat copper whose suspicions that he had a crank on his hands were gloriously allayed by scenes of Hyde Park flickering dimly on a white sheet."

Availability: DVD (Studio Canal: Boulting Brothers Collection) Release Date: 4 June 2007.

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