The Cinema Legend You Don’t Know

Robert Donat plays film pioneer William Friese-Greene in The Magic Box (1951), directed by John Boulting.

Robert Donat plays film pioneer William Friese-Greene in The Magic Box (1951), directed by John Boulting.

In the annals of forgotten inventors, unsung geniuses and visionaries who have fallen through the cracks of time, William Friese-Greene should be near the top of the list. Even though his gravestone bears the inscription, “The Inventor of Kinematography,” his reputation as an early film pioneer is still challenged by some movie scholars while others believe he was a victim of bad luck and deserved the credit and fame that others like Thomas Edison enjoy today. The Magic Box (1951), directed by John Boulting, favors the latter view and was one of the most prestigious productions of its year. It was produced exclusively for the Festival of Britain, a national exhibition that opened in London in May 1951 and marked the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition.   Continue reading

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Christopher Plummer: The Von Trapp Who Didn’t Want to Sing

Christopher Plummer, out of his element and comfort zone in The Sound of Music (1965)

Christopher Plummer, out of his element and comfort zone in The Sound of Music (1965)

In interviews over the years Christopher Plummer would often jokingly refer to The Sound of Music as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M” but one can easily understand why he’d rather talk about almost any other film or theater production in his career because that 1965 blockbuster film was really a showcase for Julia Andrews. Plummer’s role as Captain Von Trapp was, in his own words, “very much a cardboard figure, humourless and one-dimensional.” Even though screenwriter Ernest Lehman collaborated with Plummer on improving the part, Captain Von Trapp was not destined to be one of the actor’s favorite roles. And having to sing was another drawback for him. As he confessed in his memoirs, he was “untrained as a singer. To stay on a long-sustained note was, for me, akin to a drunk trying to walk the straight white line…”    Continue reading