Magic in The Movies

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 Guest » 09/11/03 04:23 PM

If youre thinking of special effects, start a new topic. Im referring to the moviemakers who also love and perform magic.
I thought this would be an interesting topic since I cant think of any magician I know who doesnt almost love movies as much as magic. Dan and I want to make movies the rest of our lives and do magic as a hobby. Weve made a few shorts films and are currently in college majoring in film. Anyway, I have started a list below of filmmakers who also do or did magic. I think it would also be cool to list classic tricks that have been performed in movies or even magicians who were in movies. Here are a few off the top of my head:

George Melies (filmmaker) The Father of Special Effects was a magician
Famous film Trip to The Moon (1902)
Erdnase came out this year

Orson Welles (filmmaker) Changed the way movies were made with his spectacular film, Citizen Kane (1941)
Did magic professionally. Did stage magic and illusions

Woody Allen (filmmaker) Infamous independent filmmaker. Does magic as a hobby

Ricky Jay (actor) One of the greatest magicians of our day. Has stared in several films, mostly the films by David Mammet.

Damien Niemen (filmmaker) Recently wrote and directed a con movie in which the characters are named after famous magicians. The title of the movie is called Shade.
Does magic as a hobby

R. Paul Wilson (Second Unit Director) Directed the opening title sequence for Shade.
Paul Wilson does magic full time and also had a small part in Shade as a dealer.


Tom Mulica had a small part in Finding Forester

Future names to be on the list:
Chris Kenner
Dan Buck
Dave Buck

Anyway, have at in any way you want. Ive seen many classic magic effects in the movies, I just couldnt think of were I have seen them.


-Dave Buck
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Postby Guest » 09/11/03 07:58 PM

The MGM musical "Three Little Words" is a movie about real life songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar - played in the film by Bing Crosby and Red Skelton. Crosby's character is also a magician, and many different effects are done by Bing throughout the film. (Kalmar and Ruby wrote the I.B.M. "Theme Song")!

I remember Ben Gazzarra starring as a magician in a film in the early eighties... the title is simple... maybe "The Magician"?

You're right, they're hard to think of... I'll add more when I remember them... --Asrah
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Postby Guest » 09/11/03 09:31 PM

For the record, FRED ASTAIRE, played Kalmar, not Crosby. There is a lot of credits that could make this thread a long list.
Interesting to note, that a number of those in the Hollywood community, were interested in magic and attended magic clubs and events, in the 1930's...including King Vidor, George Cukor, Jimmy Stewart, Harold Lloyd,Chester Morris, Edgar Bergen and more.
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 06:44 AM

Cary Grant was a magician and sat on the board of directors for the Magic Castle.

Channing Pollock wrote many a story that ended up on the silver screen as well...

If you want to see movies ABOUT magicians, check out Turner Classic Movies. They show short one hour films from the 30's and 40's at 2 or 3 in the morning.(Thank you Tivo!) There are quite a few of these short features that have magicians solving mysteries, debunking psychics and generally being involved in 30's style mayhem.

One of my favorites is Miracles for Sale directed by Tod Browning. It is based on the book Death From A Top Hat by Clayton Rawson. Dead people everywhere, phoney psychics, love interests, and the lead character's apartment is a hoot!

Rosie
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 09:14 AM

We should also note that Harry Houdini was a huge fan of the movies and actually tried to break into the business by writing, directing and producing some of his own movies.
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 09:21 AM

Hi I'm not sure but did Chester Morris play a magician detective called Boston Blackie BOY! I am giving my age away?
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Postby Ian Kendall » 09/12/03 10:20 AM

</lurk>

Steve Martin
Griffin O'Neil (The Escape Artist)
Adrian Brody
Karl Malden
Tony Giorgio
The French guy who did the Hofzinzer book
Oh yes, Christian Fectner (sp?)
Penn and Teller got killed
Paul Cowling (London magician and producer)

And I was tangentially attached to some independant film makers in Edinbrugh a few years ago.

Offze Toppov Zehead...

Take care, Ian

<lurk>
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 12:19 PM

Yes, Morris did do "Boston Blackie".

Besides H. Houdini, add wife Bess and brother Theo.

Dante, Fred Keating, Thurston, Scarne, Copperfield
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 09/12/03 02:58 PM

Don't get me started on this one. <g>

BTW, Father Cyprian knows tons re this subject. Also don't forget the article I wrote re Melies that appearted in GENII several months back.

In the meantime, here are some other magicians NOT MENTIONED that have been in films:

John Calvert
Channing Pollock
Harry Anderson
Paul LePaul
Tony Giorgio
Abb Dickson
Carl Ballentine
George Schindler (in a Woody Allen segment of a film)
Jay Ose
Ricky Dunn
Peter Maloney

Tangential roles:

Victor Jory
Bill Bixby
Milton Berle
Jackie Gleason
Tony Curtis
Gary Grant
Robert Lansing (taught by Michael Skinner)
Steve Martin
Jimmy Stewart (assisted Bill Neff)

Also read Erik Barnouw's THE MAGICIAN AND THE CINEMA (1981)for more...much more...

I think that Bert Kalmar advised Vernonica Lake to prepare the magic act she did in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942?) with Alan Ladd.

Trivia: In THREE LITTLE WORDS, Fred Astaire played a magician (Bert Kalmar). He also played magicians in two other films. What were they?

There was also magic in TARZEN'S SAVAGE FURY in the 50s (Lex Barker). Technical advisor? Charlie Miller. Director? Cy Enfield.

Trivia: Who played the magician in THE SILVER CHALICE? Who directed him in the magic scenes?

What film is the first and perhaps only one to allude to a "juice deck"? (I bet T.G. knows?)

Ricky Jay's hands were used in THE ESCAPE ARTIST, a movie where Harry Anderson had a bit part. I video-taped the magic sequence where Ricky Jay does an incredibly smooth Hamman Count. I slowed it down frame-by-frame and could not detect the tell-tale switch of packets. I assumed that they edited out a few frames. I asked Francis Ford Coppola about this. He said, "Not as far as he knew..." He was the producer.

Trivia: Who was the technical adviser for the magic in BAGDAD CAFE?

Sidebar: I think that Bill McIlhaney has one of the finest collections in the world.

I also recently found out that the late John Schlesinger ("Midnight cowboy," "Sunday Bloody Sunday") was a conjuror. See NY Review of Books -September 25, 2003.)

The list is long; the beat goes on...

P.S. I just saw "Matchstick Men," an uncharacteristic vehicle for Ridley Scott. Be prepared to be surprised and engrossed. The cast is superb. The last "plot point" of several is a lulu.

Onward,

www.JonRacherbaumer.com
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 03:19 PM

John R. - thanks for all the info. I'm taking this film history class at college and cant get enough of it.

Other guys left out of the list: off the top of my head

John Scarney played Paul Newmans hands in the "Sting"
Steve Forte consulted for "Casino"
David Copperfield had a roll in "Terror Train"


Ya! I see Matchstick Men tonight along with Once upon a Time in Mexico, cant wait.

Off to Vegas, dan
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 05:53 PM

I stand corrected on my post above! I still seem to remember Bing Crosby doing a few effects in a musical... the Ben Gazzarra film is titled "Quicker Than the Eye." There is a fairly complete listing of magic in films on Repro Magic's website - here's the link:

http://www.repromagic.co.uk/resource/movies.html

Checking this list will jog your memory! --Asrah
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 09/12/03 06:45 PM

Jon,
Silver Chalice was my pal,John Calvert.
What big star was Silver Chalice first movie? :)
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 09/12/03 07:16 PM

Trivia: In THREE LITTLE WORDS, Fred Astaire played a magician (Bert Kalmar). He also played magicians in two other films. What were they?

Other magicians?
In the movie Swing time Victor Moore did a little magic but not Astaire.
There was a magician in Santa Claus is coming to town?
You got me??? :(
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 09/12/03 07:24 PM

Others:
Johnny Carson
Dick Cavett
Jackie Gleason
Buster Keaton
Arsenio Hall
Jerry Lewis
Dom DeLuise
Dean Martin
Dante
Al Flosso in a Marx Bros. movie ,no magic ,Punch and Judy
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 09/12/03 07:36 PM

Trivia: Who was the technical adviser for the magic in BAGDAD CAFE?

Harlod Voit
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Postby Andrew Martin Portala » 09/12/03 07:42 PM

HOUDINI Duh
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Postby Guest » 09/12/03 10:06 PM

The Internet Movie Database is a great resource for this kind of thing. See, for example, Channing Pollock\'s writer credits, or Jay Ose\'s screen appearances.

The two feature films listed are both three-card monte sequences, in which he appears as a bystander, rather than broad tosser. I assume he was doing hand inserts as well as technical adviser.

The School for Scoundrels three-card monte book has an extensive list of appearances of three-card monte in films.
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Postby Frank Yuen » 09/12/03 10:11 PM

Dante played himself in "A Haunting We Will Go" with Laurel and Hardy.

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Postby Larry Horayne » 09/13/03 06:08 AM

Orson Welles changed the way movies were made in more ways than one may realize -- he had the studio grind a lens that kept BOTH foreground AND background in focus simultaneously.

www.SandySinger.com
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Postby themaestro » 09/13/03 08:06 AM

Originally posted by Rosie:

Channing Pollock wrote many a story that ended up on the silver screen as well...
Rosie
Are you sure about this? I'd never heard about this about the dove magician Channing Pollock. I do know there was a writer Channing Pollock, from whom I believe dove magician Channing Pollock took his name.

In fact looking up writer credits on Internet Movie Data Base, all I found were from the older Channing Pollock (1888-1946) and most were from the 1910's and 20's; with the latest being a story in 1938.
****************************
There was a movie with Tommy Smothers as a door to door magician called "Get to Know your Rabbit." Orson Welles is in it at the magician that gets Smothers started. Interestingly, it was directed by Brian Dipalma. Talk about unexpected departures. THough I think I remember reading somewhere that the movie was taken away from him, and he disavowed it.
****************************
I wonder if Mel Brooks had any involvement in magic. There's an interesting thing in "Blazing Saddles." A scene where Gene Wilder convinces the skeptical Clevon Little of his fast hands by having Clevon clap his hands together around a chess piece, then to see that it's not in his hands but Gene WIlder has grabbed it and put it in his gun holster.
The interesting thing that I hadn't noticed until I saw it recently is that it is done without edits, in one shot from behind Gene Wilder. Clevon Little actually claps the chess piece in his hands, and then in the relaxation of his triumph leans back and laps it, ala Slydini. Before the character opens his hands and finds to his astonishment it is not there.

Nowlin


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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/13/03 09:12 AM

Joe Besser, who replaced Shemp Howard as one of the Three Stooges, was part of Thurston's touring act in the 1920's.

What big star was Silver Chalice first movie?
Paul Newman

I wonder if Mel Brooks had any involvement in magic.
Mel and his wife Anne Bancroft are buddies with Harry Lorayne and his wife. You must have never read many issues of Apolcalypse :)
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Postby Bob L » 09/13/03 10:30 PM

Harry Blackstone Jr. was an advisor on "Get To Know Your Rabbit."
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Postby Larry Horayne » 09/16/03 04:15 PM

Fred Astaire was, in real life, a magic enthusiast, as was George Seaton, one of the charter members of the Castle. Seaton is best known for writing and directing--Miracle On 34th Street, original Airport, etc. What he is least known as, is being the first actor to play the Lone Ranger on radio. Dean Martin and I did card tricks for the cast and crew in Minneapolis, where Airport was shot. Seaton wanted a 'real' snowstorm, but 1969 was one of the mildest winters in the Twin Cities.

www.SandySinger.com
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Postby Guest » 09/17/03 12:22 AM

What a fabulous topic! Rosie mentioned Tod Browning whose films no magician should miss. Johny Eck starred in his film freaks. Eck had no legs and was himself in the employ of a magician at one point in his life, and earned his pay by being sawn in half. Actually not him, but his legged identical twin, whom he was later switched with(see Ricky Jay's Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women.)

Sandy Singer mentioned Orson Wells' contribution to deep focus in cinema. It is not entirely true that wells invented deep focus. If you watch old silent films, you'll quite regularely see shots in deep focus. A change in film stock standards later made deep focus impossible untill wells came along.

Finally, speaking of silent films, the silent film star Harold Lloyd has card trick in Expert Card Technique titled "You See".

J
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/17/03 01:15 PM

Originally posted by jiggyjer:
If you watch old silent films, you'll quite regularely see shots in deep focus. A change in film stock standards later made deep focus impossible untill Wells came along.
Much of the innovation on Citizen Kane that Orson Welles gets credit for should really be ascribed to cinematographer Gregg Toland. His previous film, The Long Voyage Home (dir. by John Ford and starring John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald, and other members of Ford's "stock" crew) uses many of Kane's "innovations", such as creative wipes, deep focus, odd camera angles, etc.
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Postby Guest » 09/17/03 01:32 PM

Here's one:

Nicolas Cage does the Rising Cards in "Zandalee" (a b- 'thriller' that was filmed down here in the Big Easy.) I sold him the trick while I was 'doing time' at Magic Masters New Orleans. Several months later, I was watching HBO and what-dya-know... he does the thing in the film!

Does this mean I should ask for some royalties :p ?

Doug Conn
www.dougconn.com
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/17/03 05:19 PM

Adrien Brody was on Fresh Air (NPR) this evening. He spent a little time talking about having performed magic.
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Postby Guest » 09/19/03 01:05 PM

Vincent Price played the title role in "The Mad Magician." David Bamberg appeared as Fu Manchu in several spanish speaking films.
Dennis Loomis
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Postby Guest » 09/19/03 01:07 PM

Johnny Thompson had a brief role in a film playing the part of a grocery store manger. I can't remember the title.
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Postby Guest » 09/19/03 05:01 PM

Question of the day:
What OTHER movie,(besides "Houdini") does Tony Curtis, do some magic in?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/19/03 07:43 PM

It depends on what you mean by "magic" and "do." He "performs" a straight jacket escape (while apparently hanging upside down from the basket of a hot air balloon) in "The Great Race" (the greatest movie ever made; I thank you :D ).

However, for some weird reason I'm thinking he did a trick or two in "The Boston Strangler," but I'm probably wrong (it's been a couple decades at least since I've seen that movie).

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Postby Guest » 09/19/03 08:20 PM

Dustin,
You gave a correct answer, that wasn't even the one I had in mind...I've never seen "The Great Race". I was thinking of "Spartacus", where his (slave/job) abilities to entertain his owners, included magic. He does some brief manipulations with an egg, in the slave camp.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/19/03 08:54 PM

Yes, I remember that.

Thanks, but the "Great Race" doesn't really count because you can bet dollars to doughnuts that it was a stuntman who actually performed the "escape."

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Postby Guest » 09/22/03 09:06 AM

Let's not forget Christopher Hart's work in "Addams Family" and "Idle Hands". (I don't know if part of a magician counts, but what the heck)
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Postby Guest » 09/23/03 02:33 AM

I was fascinated by the fancy card work in "Gilda," the classic 1940s film with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. The Ford character goes up to a blackjack table and plays a couple hands, and when the dealer is shuffling for the next hand, the Ford character calls "Stop" or something, and the dealer has to allow him to give it a shuffle.

The camera goes to a closeup of his hands, and the shuffling is so smooth and able that it's a thing of beauty. You just know that the Ford character cheated in some way.

I've always wondered whose hands they were. Does anybody know?
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Postby David Alexander » 10/05/03 02:20 PM

Bob Haskell is the credited magic consulant for the Vincent Price vehicle, "The Mad Magician," which was just shown at a Hollywood film festival in glorious 3-D. It was great fun, even though it was something of a knock-off of the House of Wax.

I do not know who built the props or what happened to them after the film was completed.

Price did a wonderful job playing a magician driven insane by a greedy ex-wife and unscrupulous fellow performers, one of whom has his head sawed off. As I said, great fun!
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Postby Robert Allen » 10/05/03 07:41 PM

Jack Palance played Simon Magus in _The_Silver_Chalice_ opposite Paul Newman.
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Postby Guest » 01/21/07 03:11 PM

For those who look for Magic in the Movies.

My wife is watching "Bright Young Things" which is on Showtime this month (she's using the Comcast "On Demand" to watch it.) and the character "Adam" (Stephen Campbell Moore) does a quick Chink-a-Chink (no offense intended) with coins. Also, the character that is watching "Adam" does a coin roll while discussing the trick after the performance.

JMD
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Postby Guest » 01/24/07 11:15 PM

Here is some magic in movies not mentioned:

Modesty Blaise (1966) - Silvan appears as the evil henchman Pacco. Some billiard manipulation, appearing cane and other tricks.

King of Masks (1996) - The main character is a master of the old Art of Sichuan Mask Changing (reminiscent of Jeff McBride's mask routine) in search of an apprentice to pass on his art. Beautiful performances of this little known art.

Orlando (1992) - Heathcote Williams does a French drop coin vanish. And if I remember correctly, Robert Houdin's Orange Tree automaton makes an appearance.
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Postby Guest » 01/25/07 07:24 AM

John Woo's movie 'Blackjack (1996)' with Dolph Lundgren starring, has a lot of magic in it too. John Woo also used magic in one of the Mission impossible films.
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