Magic Box, The

Date: 1951
Director: John Boulting
Production Company: Festival Film Productions

Stars: Robert Donat, Margaret Johnston, Renée Asherson, Maria Schell, Richard Attenborough, Robert Beatty
Location(s): Hertfordshire, London, Wiltshire

Region(s): , ,


The story of William Friese-Greene, a British inventor who was a forerunner in the invention of the movie camera.

Additional Information:

Screen captures uploaded by Phil Wilkinson The film was a project of the The Festival of Britain and boasts cameos by over 60 actors of the day.

Buy this film on Amazon link

Can you help:

If you have any information regarding this film, any of the stills, or even better, some NOW shots please contact us.

  • 'Now' required

During the titles, An elderly William Friese-Greene (Robert Donat) walks along the street to visit his estranged wife at the Bridge Hotel. Unknown location.

  • 'Now' required

William clutches his latest experiments in a film can as he walks.

  • 'Now' required

William Friese-Greene enters the Bridge Hotel. An unidentified location and also an unidentified actor playing the Organ Grinder.

  • 'Now' required

In flashback, Edith Friese-Greene reminisces about meeting William. Unidentified location.

Edith Friese-Greene (Margaret Johnston) returns home. Alexander Smith identifies this location as Church Crescent, London N10 . . .

image no 5

. . . . and also provides this image.

The Milkman tries to collect money from the ever penniless Friese-Greenes.

image no 6

Despite the differences in front doors, Alexander Smith found the correct house at 25 Church Crescent, Muswell Hill.

  • 'Now' required

During the First World War, the Friese-Greene boys run to watch soldiers march past. Unconfirmed location.

Other boys in the street come out of their houses to see the troops. Church Crescent in N10 identified by Alexander.

image no 8

No 40 Church Crescent to the right by Alexander Smith.

A band leads marching soldiers through the streets. Alexander Smith found Church Crescent in Muswell Hill, where the road bends 90 degrees. The house on the left is no 24.

image no 9

And Alexander provided this picture.

The band, followed by new recruits, marches past the Friese-Greenes home. Church Crescent in Muswell Hill.

image no 10

Substantially more foliage now. (RL)

William and Edith watch from the window as their sons march to war. Church Crescent, Muswell Hill N10 identified by Alexander.

image no 11

The best possible angle at ground level given the parking situation. (RL)

  • 'Now' required

In another flashback, William remembers his first wedding to Helena Friese (Maria Schell). The Church of St. Cyriac on Church Street, Lacock, Wiltshire. The location was also used in 'Mr. Quilp'.

  • 'Now' required

Confetti and best wishes. Church Street at the junction with Nethercote Hill in Lacock.

  • 'Now' required

The happy couple, Helena and William. Outside the Church of St. Cyriac on Church Street, Lacock.

  • 'Now' required

A wedding guest waves the Friese-Greenes off. Church Street in Lacock.

William runs to pawn photographic plates. French Row in the Market Place, St. Albans, Hertfordshire identified by Tonyk and also seen in 'Hand in Hand'.

image no 16

The same location. (PW)

William visits the grand home of William Fox Talbot.

image no 17

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire by Russell Groves.

The carriage draws up to the front of Fox Talbot's home. Lacock Abbey, which was once William Henry Fox Talbot's home and now houses a museum.

image no 18

Russell Groves replicates the same scene, also with blue sky. (RL)

William awaits admittance to Fox Talbots house. Lacock Abbey, Lacock near Chippenham in Wiltshire identified by Russell Groves.

image no 19

Russell sends this shot to support his identification. (RL)

<?php echo 20; ?>

William Friese-Greene arrives at his premises on Piccadilly. In fact, not that far away says Dave W, Albemarle Street, London W1 as seen from Grafton Street with the Grecian pillars of the Royal Institution on the left hidden by the bus. (RL)

image no 20

Dave provides this shot taken by him in support of his identification. (RL)

  • 'Now' required

Williams business partner, Arthur Collings (Eric Portman) arrives at the Friese-Greenes house. Unidentified location.

William sets up his moving picture camera in Hyde Park.

image no 22

One can't make out the Carriage way but it's there. But I have cheated here. I turned around from the shot that follows but need to check the film's continuity.

Friese-Greene's Cousin (Bernard Miles) with the Grand Entrance Screen of Hyde Park in the background. South Carriage Drive, London W2.

image no 23

Now. SJ

William Friese-Greene captures his Cousin Alfred on film in Hyde Park. South Carriage Drive, London W2.

image no 24

I tried to do this by trees: this was the only reasonable fit. SJ

One evening, William Friese-Greene develops the film taken in Hyde Park and achieves success. Tris recognised the west side of St. James Church on St James's Walk, Clerkenwell EC1. The tower also appears in 'Love, Honour and Obey' whilst the street below is seen in 'Dance with a Stranger'.

image no 25

Looking up at the west side of St. James Church's tower from the churchyard captured by Tris.

  • 'Now' required

An excited Friese-Greene runs out and asks a Constable (Laurence Olivier) to come and see what he has done. Studio set included for sake of completeness.

A film within a film. Friese-Greene astounds the Constable by showing him the moving picture. Studio set included for completeness but . . . . . the film being shown depicts the Grand Entrance Screen of Hyde Park.

image no 27

Without the studio. SJ