Orson Welles & the unfinished " The Magic Show" film

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Guest » 07/05/07 08:22 PM

Anyone know anything about it?
Seen clips of it perhaps?

Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/05/07 10:19 PM

The Magic Show, and all of Orson Welles' unfinished projects, were left to his mistress Oja Kodar. She in turn donated them to the Film Museum of Munich. The footage of The Magic Show which Welles had edited to finished form (about 30 minutes) was shown on German TV some time back, as were various other projects, all in various stages of completion. Bootlegs of The Magic Show are floating around out there. A search of The Forum will locate a seller from whom I purchased one.
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Postby Guest » 07/06/07 06:18 AM

Thanks Richard.

I need to know where its housed,
so I get broadcast quality prints
and permission from the Welles estate
to use it in my book project.

I learned about it a few days ago,
when I came across an article that is now
three years old. Things change and
you never know how current information
can be.

I just found out too, that a book by
Toungette talks exstensively about it.

Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/06/07 08:09 AM

It no longer belongs to the Welles estate--solely to the Film Museum in Munich.
Good luck getting any permission. You're going to have a tough time.
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Postby Guest » 07/06/07 09:54 AM

If what you're talking about is what I saw at a private screening in Los Angeles a few years ago, you aren't missing much. The only time Welles is actually clear on what's being done is at the beginning when he was assisted by John and Cathy Daniel and at the end when he did the Hindu Thread after hours of coaching by Mike Caveney.

This latter segment took hours and hours to shoot as Welles had some odd idea about ditching the torn pieces with his hand in the air but just out of frame.

Everything in between these segments was not very good and quite disappointing to me. Welles Mercury Wonder Show, done for the USO during WW II was, to all reports, quite good. In the early 1950s Welles was offered the chance to tour with a large scale magic show by no less a producer than the also-legendary Sol Hurok. Wells passed on the chance to become The Worlds Greatest Magician, as he could have been had he maintained the discipline to mount a show and not endlessly change it as was his habit.

Postby Guest » 07/06/07 09:31 PM

Was this the same film of Welles that Copperfield use in his show for a time? I really liked that effect.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/06/07 10:00 PM

What Copperfield did was originally filmed for Dick Himber.
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Postby Guest » 07/06/07 11:48 PM

Yes, and the film was "flopped" so that David's "good side" would be towards the audience when he performed the effect.

A really good impresionist was hired to imitate Welles' voice so "Dave" could be substitued for "Dick" because, as Dustin pointed out, the film was originally done for Richard Himber.

Postby Guest » 07/07/07 04:43 AM

David used that with out permission, and
when the Welles estate found out they
were not happy and filed a law suit.

That is according to what an attorney's wife in Woodstock told me.

Postby Guest » 07/07/07 07:46 AM

I may be wrong, but I think that you're talking about two different films, here.

The one that was used in Copperfield's show is, I think, different from the one housed in Germany.

- T. Baxter

Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/07/07 11:08 AM

Entity: Youre not wrong, just mistaken. We are talking about two different films. You are just mistaken in that you dont realize that we know that we are talking about two different films.

Mai-Ling: Id not heard that story before. I would question your acquaintance on a couple of different things. First, Welles made the film for Richard Himber. If anyone owned it, I would suspectthough I recognize that Welles could have made a stipulation in this regardthat Himbers estate owned it. Second, David is usually very careful about these things and, I would imagine, so were the attorneys at CBS since the piece played on their network in 1992. It would be interesting to get the whole story.

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Postby Guest » 07/07/07 12:30 PM

Nothing airs on television unless it is cleared. David's company almost certainly provided ample evidence to the network lawyers or their clearence people that he had all the necessary paperwork. If there was a problem, then Errors and Omissions insurance would have handled it.

David had this in his show for at least one season as I saw him do it. It went over quite well.

Postby Guest » 07/07/07 03:35 PM

I was at a Shulamat Ran lecture and the
lady who is on the living series committee
and I got talking. I gave her an idea of
having an author on magic, or magician to
do a lecture. That's I could recommend a
few (hundred).

Anyway, she started talking about how
David used a film or maybe it photos.
Either way, he didn't get permission.

Some people feel that they have had Okay's
in the past. That alone gives them Okay's
in the future.

Probably whatever story that is there,
no one who is close to him will say boo
on it.

I don't think she would make something up
like that...her husband who is an attorney
could have been one of the people who
worked on "the case" for all we know.

Not that it really matters. I don't remember
if I ever saw it or not. Personally, I don't
care. I have more important things to occupy
my mind.

Postby Guest » 07/07/07 09:29 PM

This story was printed in the L.A. Times a few years ago:

"Copperfield Sued: The daughter of the late director Orson Welles has filed a
copyright infringement suit against David Copperfield over the magician's use
of portions of a Welles film for a card trick in his act. Beatrice Welles'
lawsuit, which calls her father's work "the magic film," asks a judge to bar
Copperfield from using the Welles footage and also seeks unspecified damages.
The suit also names CBS, which aired a Copperfield special containing the
trick, in which Copperfield and an audience member interact with the Welles
film. "

- entity

Postby Guest » 07/08/07 12:01 AM

That is surprising, given how paranoid network lawyers usually are. Of course, this could have been something without merit and merely a ploy to give heft to settlement negotiations.

In the end, with a lawsuit filed, it may have been cheaper to reach a settlement than to fight.

Does anyone know the outcome?

Postby Guest » 07/08/07 04:20 PM

Copperfield stopped using the film shortly after this story appeared. Apart from that, I haven't heard anything more.

- T. Baxter

Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/08/07 06:11 PM

The film was owned by Bruce Elliott's heirs (or whomever got his stuff). I spoke to his daughter Judy about it years ago when I was trying to track it down. A few years after that, David found it.
Farmer would know more about this, of course, since he's an entertainment attorney, but as with other things of this type, owning the film itself doesn't necessarily means you have the legal right to do anything with it, such as exhibit it.
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/09/07 09:12 AM


As a side interest, was it Maurice LaMarche who did the impression of Welles for Copperfield?
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Postby Guest » 07/09/07 11:36 AM

In THIS THREAD Max Maven offered Rich Little as the person who altered Welles's words.

Postby Guest » 07/09/07 03:24 PM

I always thought Paul Frees did the best Welles, but as he died in 1986 and this was part of David's 14th special show in 1992 when Flying was debuted, it's doubtful that Frees did the work.

I was told at one time, but I can't recall who did it.

Postby Guest » 07/16/07 10:07 AM

I received an AVI version that I finally was
able to convert to an MPEG.

So I can watch it a bit better, and its quite
well, um...interesting.

I played it for Dad, he liked it...I'll have
to watch again.

Postby Rick Ruhl » 07/16/07 11:52 AM

Paul Frees did all the ID's for KHJ Los Angeles. What a great voice that was.

He did sound like Orson Wells.
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Postby Guest » 07/26/07 09:47 AM

I just recieved the new book
"Orson Welles Remembered" through
my library system.

It has a chapter "The company
of magicians" with interviews
with Abb Dickson, Mike Caveney,
Don Wayne and Jim Stienmeyer.

The interview with Abb really
help understand the filming that
Orson did of The Magic Show.

It also talks more about Orson
and his love of magic.

Postby Guest » 07/26/07 11:06 AM


You should also check out Orson Welles: The Man Who Was Magic by Bart Whaley. This ebook entirely looks and tries to understand and interpret Orson's love and use for magic.

Postby Guest » 07/26/07 01:15 PM

I'll check into it when I have more
time to read. I just wanted to read
the chapter in this book because it
specifically talks about the film.

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