Muriel Box was born in 1905 in Surrey and started reading scripts for British Instructional Pictures at Welwyn Garden City, before moving to BIP at Elstree into the Continuity department. She met and married Sydney Box, and introducing him to the film industry, they formed a documentary production company, Verity Films, that produced propaganda films during the War. In 1945 Muriel and Sydney wrote The Seventh Veil, which appears at no 10 in the BFI’s list of the biggest UK cinema hits of all time based on audience figures (more people saw it at the cinema than Harry Potter). The film won them the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – Muriel becoming the first ever woman to win the award.
Eventually they both ended up at Gainsborough Studios, with Muriel heading up the script department, and then Rank. In 1950 she finally directed her first feature, The Happy Family (1952), although at the time they had to pretend that Sydney was co-directing, to keep the distributors happy. After her directing career ended in 1964, she left the film industry to co-found Britain’s first feminist publishing house, Femina, and later became a campaigner for women’s rights, working with her friend, Edith Summerskill the Labour politician, to reform Britain’s divorce laws. Muriel died in 1991.
Rattle of A Simple Man was the last feature film that Muriel directed. Adapted for the screen from his stageplay by Charles Dyer (who also co-stars) follows Percy Winthram (Harry H Corbett, Steptoe & Son), a shy, naïve 39-year-old who is in London with his friends for the Cup Final. When he meets beautiful hostess Cyrenne (Diane Cilento, The Wicker Man, Tom Jones) in a Soho strip club and accepts a bet, a night of lust seems to be on the cards, but back at her apartment Percy’s innocence and vulnerability become all too evident. A bittersweet study of two characters from very different walks of life, the film is imbued with endearing and heartwarming humour and some stark home truths.
Written by Charles Dyer
For the 2023 restoration of Rattle of A Simple Man, STUDIOCANAL went back to the original camera negative which was scanned and restored in 4K to produce a brand new HD master