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The Magnet U rating

A young James Fox plays the tearaway who tricks a boy out of his magnet only to be troubled by his conscience, in this attractive Ealing comedy.

Drama 1950 78 mins

Director: Charles Frend



In his first starring role, an 11-year-old James Fox (then known as William) plays Johnny, an over-imaginative child who tricks a younger boy out of his prized magnet. Troubled by his conscience, he gives the magnet away - but the guilt isn't so easy to lose.

The Magnet was clearly Ealing Studios’ attempt to repeat the success of its boys’ own crime caper Hue and Cry, but this time we're presented with a more earnest message around individual morality, in contrast to the ensemble japes of the earlier film, reflecting director Charles Frend’s reputation for more serious material (The Cruel Sea, Scott of the Antarctic). The film remains fascinating today for its earthy depiction of post-war Merseyside locations and inhabitants, including a scene featuring a young boy of Chinese heritage (conversant in both Chinese and fluent scouse); an unusual sight for British cinema of the time. While not as well-known as some of the more established Ealing classics, The Magnet is a thoroughly enjoyable fable that retains its power of attraction.