The Magic Box (1951).

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A technicolour biographical film about William Friese-Green, who patented one of the first working cinematic cameras.

To be honest, this film isn’t stellar. It’s not awe-inspiring or groundbreaking, but its a good film to watch because some themes are still important now as the film industry has changed irrevocably and yet has ultimately changed little, even nearly 100 years after Friese-Green’s death.

This film was notable at the time because it had cameo roles from several famous British actors at the time (I spotted Joyce Grenville and Sylvia Sims but I’m sure there are plenty more, including Lawrence Olivier as a policeman.) but Robert Donat (Count of Monte Cristo; Goodbye Mr Chips) was surprising as the main protagonist. His character had an irrevocable positivity against failure, but often ignored those around him in pursuit of a unattainable dream. His character role also handles inevitable costume / aging changes very well.

The fact that it is a 1950s technicolour also does mean it has moments of being very sentimental and dramatic. The wife spent half the film weeping and this was usually indispersed with loud clashing waves of orchestral score. Keeping in mind, though, this story was apparently heavily fictionalized but unless you are a diehard film boffin I don’t think the sensationalism or liberties taken with the script will bother you massively.

A good film to watch, although the non-linear style seemed a bit jumbled at first. Its got me interested in finding more films starring Donat because his acting style just seems exemplary.

MY RATING: *** / *****


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