Bill Bixby in "The Magician"

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Postby Guest » 10/14/04 08:31 AM

Wow, what a ball! "The Magician" happened at absolutely the right time in my life. I was in grade school and just getting into magic -- and there was Bill Bixby as taught by Mark Wilson, doing big illusions and fighting crime in primetime. He even escaped from Kole's Table of Death at the very last moment! The show clearly imprinted me for life.

Perhaps it wasn't exactly great television -- to this day, there's certainly no Zig Zag enshrined in the Smithsonian -- but to a 7 year old bitten by the magic bug, it couldn't have gotten much cooler. (Although Bill Severn's column in Boy's Life ran a close second.)

Thanks for the well researched article. Now all I need is the whole series on DVD.

Neil Tobin

Postby Guest » 10/14/04 04:55 PM

I loved The Magician. As a teenager at the time I wrote to the studio and received a signed publicity photo. It's the famous one with Bixby and the dove. I still have it.

That show has so many things that are fascinating. Fortunately it seems to have been shot on film, so unlike many series shot on video at the time, the prints from it (when shown) are still crisp. The show conjures so many things that were new and special at the time: digital watches, car phones (which were different than todays cell phones). Most interestingly was a hero who didn't carry a gun, but who always seemed in deadly earnest about helping people. The music was haunting as well. It's one of the few shows I can think of from that time period (the other being maybe The Rockford Files) that still stands up after all these years.

I dearly wish it was available on DVD today (preferably with vintage commercials). I'd buy one like a shot.

Postby Guest » 10/14/04 11:16 PM

I remember being able to thank him for his show getting me into magic, at one of the magic castle awards shows years ago. He seemed genuinely happy that he had had that affect on me.

I also remember a magic series that he hosted. That was also a great showcase of the worlds greatest magicians like Kaps.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/15/04 12:05 AM

The show you are referring to was called The Wonderful World of Magic. It was a collection of performances filmed at a FISM (1973 I think, though I cannot be certain at the moment except that it was one of those at which Richard Ross won the Grand Prix). Yes, there was some spectacular magic on those shows, but there was some pretty awful stuff as well. But with names like Ross, Fred Kaps, Ger Copper, Ali Bongo and a slew of others, it was easy to suffer through (and forget) the less than perfect performances.

Bixby was filmed at the Magic Castle with Irma doing generic introductions (though the name of the ghost playing the piano on the show was not Irma, and the Castle was just called The Magic Club). He never introduced anyone by name, just things like, I know you will like our next magician and then theyd play a clip. He would also start the show by showing a simple trick, and then explain it at the end of the show.

Needless to say, I loved it.

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Postby Guest » 10/20/04 06:55 AM

I'm another one who, as a child, was totally fascinated by the TV show The Magician. I was 12 in 1973 and loved every minute of the series.
I was very pleased to get such a detailed insider's view of the production of the series. As trivial as the subject may be, I couldn't put it down.

Postby Guest » 10/21/04 01:22 PM

Later in Bixby's career, when all my friends were jazzed about "The Hulk," I refused to let go of "The Magician" as an inspiration. This terrific article brought it all back again, with all the details we never got before as kids.

A dozen or more years after "The Magician" there was another weekly television show called "Blacke's Magic" starring Hal Linden and Harry Morgan. It lifted a number of the same concepts -- famous and wealthy magician with interesting sidekick pals using magic to solve crimes -- but I don't think it ran even a full season. Still, there was some good magic in there and the scripts were fun.

Perhaps someone will dig up some background on this show as well and give us the same behind-the-scenes look as was done so expertly for "The Magician." I'd like to know, for example, who did consulting for the magic side of things. I know there were a few magic stars in there as well (Carl Ballantine sticks in my mind.) Seems like it would be another worthwhile look at a different stage in the evolution of televised deception.


Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/21/04 01:54 PM

Jim Steinmeyer was the magic consultant on Blacke's Magic.
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Postby Guest » 10/21/04 02:36 PM

Almost could have guessed that one...! Thank you!


Postby Guest » 10/22/04 12:56 PM

When I was working on my last big writing project I dropped Bill a note at his home, asking him a couple of questions. A couple of weeks later the phone rang, it was Bill, happy to answer what questions he could.

He had just finished directing Blossom, I think it was, and sounded tired. He was fighting cancer at the time and I didn't want to take up much of his time, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry, so we talked.

Near the end of the conversation I asked him if he didn't mind my asking, how was he doing? He spoke frankly, telling me he was trying some experimental things and, now that Blossom had wrapped, he was going on vacation with his family.

I told him I'd always enjoyed his work, that I'd keep a good thought for him, and that I appreciated his time in talking to me...almost 30 minutes. He'd generously given a portion of his life to help a relative stranger.

A month later he was gone.

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