Old movies featuring magic..

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Robert Allen » 10/05/03 12:23 PM

..just popped into my head so I'll mention the fragmentary info on them here for anyone who might be interested.

First one was an old movie, Eternally Yours (1939) featuring David Niven as a stage magician. Something of a dark and romantic comey, Niven engages in some death defying stunts as well as magic. Availaable on VHS according to the IMDB.

- name unknown- This was a 30's ish movie. I can't recall the name of the movie or any of the actors so I can't look it up in IMDB, but it was about a state magician who discovers he has the ability to hypnotise people. Several tragic events happen as the result and I think he ends up a broken man, but again I haven't seen this for 30 years.. The name Svengali comes to kind, but I don't know if this is that movie.

Speaking of old magic shows, does anyone know if/when we're likely to see the Bill Bixby TV series _The_Magician_ released on DVD? I loved that show. Last I saw of it the sci-fi channel showed it once a few years ago. It appeared to have been shot on high quality film which would transfer well to DVD. Sure the magic was fun and the cameos by people like Dai Vernon and Mark Wilson were neat, but what makes the series memorable for me is the 1970's kitsch presented as cutting edge items. LED Digital watches. Car phones that had handsets with coiled wire to the base unit, etc :) . God I wish we could see this again.
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Postby Frank Yuen » 10/05/03 01:03 PM

There has been someone selling a few episodes on eBay recently. Not sure how legal this is but do a title and description search for Bill Bixby/magician and you should find them.

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Postby Guest » 10/16/03 09:28 PM

but it was about a state magician who discovers he has the ability to hypnotise people. Several tragic events happen as the result and I think he ends up a broken man, but again I haven't seen this for 30 years.. The name Svengali comes to kind, but I don't know if this is that movie.
Probably John Barrymore's version of Svengali, from 1931.
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Postby Guest » 10/16/03 09:54 PM

In "Eternally Yours", real-life magician, Fred Keating, has a small role as a nightclub M.C./Bandleader.
Keating also did at least one movie with Bing Crosby, can't remember the name, but Crosby was with Paramount back then.
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Postby Guest » 10/17/03 09:38 AM

Also, the guy in the kitchen doing card manipulations in "Eternally Yours" is non other than Paul Braden, otherwise known as LePaul...

Best, PSC
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/18/03 12:24 AM

I was watching "Rio Bravo" (1959; directed by Howard Hawks--starring John Wayne & Dean Martin) tonight: Angie Dickinson does a couple of nifty color changes with a pack of cards (and it was her, no close-ups on just the hands).

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Postby Steve Snediker » 11/03/03 02:01 PM

Originally posted by Robert Allen:
- name unknown- This was a 30's ish movie. I can't recall the name of the movie or any of the actors so I can't look it up in IMDB, but it was about a state magician who discovers he has the ability to hypnotise people. Several tragic events happen as the result and I think he ends up a broken man, but again I haven't seen this for 30 years.. The name Svengali comes to kind, but I don't know if this is that movie.
Robert:

The name of the movie you're thinking of is The Clairvoyant (aka The Evil Mind) released in 1934. In this summary from IMDB we read --

Maximus is a low budget trickster who puts on a fake clairvoyant act with his young wife Rene. Act turns to reality when, in the presence of another young lady(Christine), he starts to make startlingly correct predictions. His name becomes famous and he gets richer as he correctly predicts a train wreck and the Darby winner. Being around Christine so much causes jealousy to flare in his wife. He only manages to hold on to Rene by promising to stop using his clairvoyance. But then he abruptly predicts a horrific mining accident with 200 deaths. He attempts to warn the miners himself but they reluctantly return to work. When the accident does occur, Maximus finds himself on trial as its cause.

Here's the cast:

Claude Rains as Maximus

Fay Wray as Rene

Mary Clare as Mother

Ben Field as Simon

Jane Baxter as Christine Shawn

Athole Stewart as Lord Southwood

C. Denier Warren as J.J. Bimeter

I've have a VHS copy of the film and am fascinated by it because it dwells on the system work of the Maximus and Rene. Humorous blunders and missteps are part of their fledgling act until... DUH-DUH-DUN!

You can rent it from some of those indie movie rental places.

Cheers --

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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/03/13 10:56 PM

The Midnight Shadow is a 1939 movie with an all black cast. One of the characters is a black mentalist, Prince Alihabad.

I haven't seen it (and probably won't), but if you are so inclined, it available in full on Youtube.
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Postby John Tudor » 07/06/13 01:26 PM

...on IMDB I recently found The Magician's Daughter (MGM 1938), an 18 minute short subject, has anyone seen this? Love lost and found over the issue of exposure of her father's magic!

Eleanor Lynn played the daughter (who sings two songs about her life), Frank Albertson played the reporter, and Maurice Cass played the magician, Professor Murdock. Cass was the older European type, who usually wore pince-nez glasses and played "eccentric professor" types, like the scientist who discovers kryptonite in Adventures of Superman. The film was directed by Felix E. Feist, who was later married to Lisa Howard, who played Princess Narda in the 1954 TV pilot Mandrake the Magician.

Storyline
"News photographer/journalist Bob Wilson is assigned to get photographs showing how a popular local magician, Professor Jasper Murdock, does his tricks. Wilson wrangles a dinner invitation to Murdock's home and takes a keen interest in the magician's daughter, Dolores. He also takes a liking to the family and tells his editor that he isn't going to take the photos. The editor however assigns someone else to the task and when the story is published, Dolores believes Bob has double-crossed them so he must prove himself to her and sort out the mess he finds himself in."

The two reviews posted on the site say "The magic tricks look horribly fake and the so called love story is very minor. Not too many laughs either."
"The real weakness is that the show biz tricks supposedly done on stage would be impossible to perform in person. They're strictly traceable to movie magic, the kind of visual tricks about disappearances and disembodied humans that can only be performed on film and not possible on stage. Audiences were expected to swallow this ruse in the '30s and not question it."
Kind of like the masked magician.
"Ars longa, vita brevis." (Life is short, the art so long to learn) -Hippocrates

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/17/13 12:46 AM

On TMC tonight was a dandy little flicker from 1953 titled "Siren of Bagdad" [sic on Baghdad] starring Paul Henreid (who you might know better from "Casablanca"). As “Kazah the Great,” Henreid does a small amount of “real” (our kind of) magic and a quite a bit of movie magic. Hans Conried plays his daffy assistant/sidekick (who is seen in a “Without a Middle” illusion in an early scene) and there are a fair number of lovely ladies vying for the dashing magician’s attention.

Bob Haskell (The Split Deck) is credited for the “magical effects.” This was a year before he did “The Mad Magician.”

Disney fans might recognize the voice of Paul Frees as well.

Robert Osborne introduced the movie and warned us not to expect much. I didn’t, so as a result, I enjoyed watching it.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/17/13 12:41 PM

I'd start a discussion with the works of Melees and his peers. They were exploring what cameras/film can do at a time when magic lantern shows were popular.

Somewhere in the space bounded by conmen, the brave little tailor and the antics of overdressed boors we have lots of room for tricksters and magii in movies. :)
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