The Magic Box

The Magic Box

John Boulting (1951)

U Certificate


Our Score
Produced for the Festival of Britain, this biopic of William Friese-Greene is more a piece of wishful thinking than an accurate portrait of Britain's pre-eminent cinema pioneer. So what if Friese-Greene failed in his attempt to project moving images, and who cares if he "borrowed" many of his ideas from forgotten collaborators like John Rudge and Mortimer Evans? This is charming and thoroughly entertaining myth-making, made all the more palatable by the engaging performance of Robert Donat. Yet he was just one of the array of stars John Boulting roped into this prestigious project, chief among the others being Laurence Olivier as an inquisitive policeman.


Biopic of cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene, who gave up a successful career in photography to follow his dream of developing a camera that would capture moving images. However, his tireless experiments to perfect his creation would come at great personal cost. Starring Robert Donat, Maria Schell, Margaret Johnston, Richard Attenborough and Michael Redgrave.

Cast & Crew

William Friese-Greene Robert Donat
Helena Maria Schell
Edith Friese-Greene Margaret Johnston
Lord Beaverbrook Robert Beatty
Miss Tagg Renée Asherson
Mr Lege Michael Redgrave
Jack Carter Richard Attenborough
Second Holborn policeman Laurence Olivier
Maurice Friese-Greene John Howard Davies
Arthur Collings Eric Portman
May Jones Glynis Johns
Lady Pond Margaret Rutherford
Industry man Peter Ustinov
Broker's man Stanley Holloway
First company promoter Roland Culver
Connaught Rooms reporter Michael Denison
Elderly Viscountess Marjorie Fielding
Mrs Claire Joyce Grenfell
Ms Stukely Joan Hickson
First platform man Cecil Parker
Harold Dennis Price
Doctor's housekeeper Thora Hird
Official Receiver Michael Hordern
Cousin Alfred Bernard Miles
Hotel receptionist Kay Walsh
House agent Marius Goring
Sergeant in storeroom Sidney James
Goitz Mervyn Johns
Laboratory assistant David Tomlinson
Sitter Googie Withers
Director John Boulting
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourAvailable on: video and DVD