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Muriel Box (22 September 1905 - 19 May 1991) was a prolific Englishmarker screenwriter and director in what at the time was basically a male industry, and is generally considered to be one of the most successful females in the history of British film.

She was born Violette Muriel Baker in Tolworthmarker, Surreymarker, Englandmarker in 1905. When her attempts at acting and dancing proved to be unsuccessful, she accepted work as a continuity girl for British International Pictures. In 1935, she met and married journalist Sydney Box, with whom she collaborated on nearly forty plays with mainly female roles for amateur theatre groups. Their production company, Verity Films, first released short propaganda films (including The English Inn in 1941, her first directing effort) during World War II, after which it branched into fiction.

The couple achieved their greatest joint success when they won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for The Seventh Veil.

After the war, the Rank Organisation hired her husband to head Gainsborough Pictures, where she was in charge of the scenario department, writing scripts for a number of light comedies, including two for child star Petula Clark, Easy Money and Here Come the Huggetts, both in 1948. She occasionally assisted as a dialogue director, or re-shot scenes during post-production. Her extensive work on The Lost People(1949) earned her a credit as co-director, her first for a full-length feature.

In 1951, her husband created London Independent Producers, allowing Box more opportunities to direct. Many of her early films were adaptations of plays, and as such had a stage-bound feel, since she rarely shot on location. They were noteworthy more for their strong performances than they were for a distinctive directorial style. She favored scripts with topical and frequently controversial themes, including Irishmarker politics, teenage sex, abortion, illegitimacy, and syphilis, and several of her films were banned by local authorities.

She pursued her favorite subject - the female experience - in a number of films, including Street Corner (1953) about women police officers, Somerset Maugham's The Beachcomber (1954), with Glynis Johns as a resourceful missionary, and a series of comedies about the battle of the sexes, including The Passionate Stranger (1957), The Truth About Women (1958) and her final film, Rattle of a Simple Man (1964).

Box often experienced prejudice in a man-dominated industry, especially hurtful when perpetrated by another female. In 1950, Jean Simmons had her replaced on So Long at the Fair, and Kay Kendall unsuccessfully attempted to do the same with Simon and Laura in 1955. Many producers questioned her competence to direct large-scale feature films, and while the press was quick to note her position as one of very few women directors in the British film industry, their tone tended to be condescending rather than filled with praise.

She left film-making to write novels and created a successful publishing house, Femina, which proved to be a rewarding outlet for her feminism. She divorced Sydney Box in 1969. The following year, she married Gerald Gardiner, who had been Lord Chancellor. She died in Hendonmarker, Londonmarker in 1991.

Screenwriting credits



Directing Credits



References

  • Odd Woman Out by Muriel Box, published by Leslie Frewin, London, 1974
  • Gainsborough Melodrama, edited by Sue Aspinall and Robert Murphy, published by the British Film Institute, London, 1983


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