Posted on April 2nd, 2008 by John
I THINK IT IMPORTANTthat the performances of some of our greatest magicians are preserved on film or tape for future generations, to be aware of what made them the best. Nowadays with camcorders and widespread visual technology this is happening but it would have been wonderful had such facility been available years ago.
It would have been invaluable to see Nate Leipzig actually performing and Max Malini whereas we have the descriptions that were written by some of their contemporaries, but the nuances of performance, subtleties and misdirection really had to be seen.
I knew Johnny Ramsay quite well and other than a few clips of amateur 8mm film showing him throwing a thimble into the air and making vanish and his legendary four coins hung in the air, I don’t think there is any other evidence. His protege Andy Galloway who studied with Ramsay for seven years has some of these clips and Andy’s own performance of Ramsay’s routine closely echo the masters style and luckily have been recorded for future generations courtesy of Martin MacMillan
We have had a few scattered clips turning up around the world. I’ve seen Roy Benson’s TV act with the Chinese Sticks and the Salt Pour also his stunning Billiard Ball routine (taught to him by Leipzig!) but it’s his unique personality and style that is so valuable in studying magic presentation. And his voice and style of humour isn’t a bit like I imagined before seeing the film.It’s better.
I never saw Al Flosso but someone sold me a clip of his famous act and his wonderful Miser’s Dream and then you realise why he was so unique and good. Don Alan, another idol of mine appeared on TV and fortunately there are some recordings available notably the Magic Ranch TV series where he had many guests of the 50’s and 60’s. Clarke Crandall, Richard Himber, Johnny Platt and many other names of that period.
If you pull up You Tube on the Internet and insert Cardini you can see a clip of his act – cigarettes, cards, billiard balls and realise why he was so good and everyone raved about him. And to back up your interest in this icon of the last century somehow get a copy of John Fisher’s fabulous book “Cardini – the Suave Deceiver”. It’s worth every penny of the near £100.00 it’ll cost you to secure a copy in the U.K.
With the mainstream of magic performance today being close-up, I think that the study of the performance style of some of the greats of the last century is valuable and could lift some close-up performers to much higher levels of entertainment. Pat Page once said to me that some of our best close-up workers are magicians who have worked on stage. He said it shows in presentation.
For a long time I begged Jack Avis, one of Britain’s top card and close-up magicians, who was not a performer, to let me privately film some of his unique work on a camcorder but self-effacing man that he was he never said no but never got round to it before he died four years ago. This saddens me.
Fortunately Alex Elmsley was not so shy and his unique work has been recorded by L&L Publishing in the U.S. by The Magic Circle during their centenary celebrations and by Colin Rose of Five of Hearts Productions who has two discs of Alex in session in their studio. Effects and casual talk and demonstrations to a private group of magicians at Colin Rose’s studio. It’s priceless and preserves the legacy of one of the last century’s greatest magician’s.
And lastly the third member of the great triumvirate – Jack Avis and Alex Elmsley is famed card magician hiding in Scotland - Roy Walton. I’ve known Roy since we were teenagers and again I’ve implored him to put some of his work on film or tape perhaps in the company of his close magic friends Gordon Bruce and Peter Duffie. Again a slightly self-effacing individual and whilst I have pestered him many times fearing that we would lose a permanent record of his magic, he told me recently that it is being done within the Davenport family and will be available through that source at some time in the future.
I am delighted and relieved at this news as I am passionate about preserving the performances of some of the greatest magicians of our time.
( Steps down from the soap box).