A Box Of Delights
Who was Muriel Box?
I have a confession to make.
I’d not heard of Muriel Box until today.
The chances are, you probably haven’t either and that is just criminal.
I was driving into town to pick my daughter up from school and on the radio was a brilliant piece all about Muriel Box by @CarolMorley on the @BBCRadio4 Film Programme. I was hooked.
Muriel Box was Britain’s most prolific female feature film director and I could kick myself for not even knowing this. But is it any wonder? So many great female talents have just been forgotten or pushed to the side. Muriel is one of many.
Box was a former ‘continuity girl’, became a screenwriter, then head of Gainsborough’s scenario department and assistant director, before directing her first film, The Happy Family, in 1952.
Throughout the 50s and early 60s she made films on politics and issues close to the ‘female experience’ with strong, often controversial themes, such as teenage sex, abortion, venereal disease and illegitimacy.
With 13 films to her name, Box achieved a tremendous amount given that female directors were thin on the ground and not treated seriously.
A patriarchal industry full of prejudice, this was the time when stars and producers tried to have her removed from their projects and she found herself right in the middle of debates about whether women could direct films. Despite the obstacles and periods of depression, Box ate the setbacks for breakfast.
But Box could direct films and when I look at her list of titles then there are three I have previously watched and not realised they were a ‘Box’.
In partnership with her husband, Sydney Box she wrote The Seventh Veil (starring Ann Todd and James Mason), the highest grossing British film of 1945, which won them an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
This story is about a gifted concert pianist who suffers from suicidal depression. Using hypnosis and drugs, a psychiatrist helps her to discover that she has blocked out a traumatic relationship with her piano teacher and guardian.
Box covered a lot of ground and her work includes drama, comedy, crime and adventure. The thing is, we don’t have a box set of her work so we’ve got to go fishing to find her filmography but fish I intend to do.
If you fancy joining me then you will discover some real hidden gems, a bit like this one from Muriel Box’s sister-in-law, Betty Box and her production, the smash film Doctor in the House starring James Robertson Justice as the irascible surgeon with a voice like an educated foghorn Sir Lancelot Spratt.