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Take Two #51: Movie Magic

Larry Thornton: Movie Magic

In the course of this past year of writing Take Two, I’ve drawn heavily from YouTube as a source of performance videos. But I have also frequently relied on the remarkable video archive right here at Magicana, including the entirety of the Magic Palace television series, fortified with authorized videos from Meir Yedid’s commercial catalog, and a handful of other limited resources. The Magic Palace archive is a marvelous resource, from which I’ve posted vintage performance video by Don Alan and Earl Nelson, among others.

On the 23rd of November, Magicana added a terrific new archive of more than sixty films of magicians, shot between 1976 and 1981 by Canadian collector Larry Thornton. Using his 8mm camera, Thornton shot traveling magicians who came through his native Calgary, performing at conventions and presenting lectures within the local magic scene. The names, not unlike The Magic Palace archive, comprise a Who’s Who of the era and beyond, from then young up-and-comers, to established veteran performers as well. There are close-up performances at conventions, lectures, private interviews and performance footage shot in hotel rooms, and even convention stage acts. Every viewer should be grateful for Mr. Thornton’s efforts, and thrilled that Magicana has expended the resources to carefully digitize all this material and, now, make it available entirely for free.

So far I’ve watched a couple dozen of the films, and the first thing I did was see what new footage I might discover about performers to whom I’ve already dedicated an entry in Take Two. And so, here they are—nine newly discovered vintage films, featuring six previous Take Two subjects, along with all the convenient links to the original essays plus the new Thornton footage, and a few comments from me here and there along the way to help guide you. I hope you enjoy this, and consider it a red carpet entry into the much larger archive awaiting you in the Magicana Screening Room.

And don’t forget: please, put aside the smart phone, expand the browser, turn up the sound … the more you invest in each performance, the greater an experience you will extract. Enjoy! 

Take Two #14 featured the wonderful magician Daryl, a longtime friend and colleague, who was tragically lost to us a mere nine months ago. (Also see Take Two #18: On the Passing of Two Masters.) These two Thornton films show Daryl around the time I first met him, in 1976, a month before his 21st birthday. Although he looks but a boy, it’s no surprise that he was recognized as something of a wunderkind when he arrived on the scene. The persona is already there, charming and playful, the sleight of hand is precise, and the performance is remarkably crisp and polished. There are two Daryl films in the Thornton collection, and I particularly like Daryl’s logical and skillful routining in this first one, featuring a series of connected sandwich routines. 

Daryl: Sandwiches


A year later and not quite 21, here’s another close-up set from the young and future master. 

Daryl: Sunglasses at the Card Table


Take Two #17 was about another friend and colleague, Paul Gertner, who, along with Daryl, comprise two of the most award-winning close-up magicians of our time.

Most of us think of Paul as a close-up magician, but for a time, he developed and performed a silent stage act that was constructed around the theme of using feathers! I had the pleasure of seeing the act performed at the 1978 Society of American Magicians convention in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria, and then again later that same year at the Tannen’s Jubilee. I haven’t seen it since then, and I enjoyed watching it anew, not only because Paul is so young, but also because there’s some good magic, much of it cleverly adapted from older effects but readjusted (with great effort) with feathers. Despite the fact that the bowl fails to catch fire at the very end as the intended final surprise, he still manages to gets three bows!

Paul Gertner: Feathers!


One of Paul’s signature pieces is of course his iconic Steel Cups and Balls, which I included in my Take Two posting. Recently he performed the routine—with a few added surprises—on Penn & Teller Fool Us, and in his youth he even performed it on The Mr. Rogers Show. Here he is, barely 26 years old, performing the routine in 1979. 

Paul Gertner: The Cups and Balls


In Take Two #28 I wrote about perhaps the greatest close-up magician I ever saw—and I was fortunate to see him many times—Albert Goshman. (I later added another installment about Goshman, Take Two #23B: Albert Goshman Returns.)

When Albert left his native Brooklyn to go to Los Angeles and become a fulltime magician, Dai Vernon gave him a piece of advice that he offered to many magic hopefuls, namely to choose one trick and do it better than anyone in the world. This film is a silent recording of the trick that Goshman decided to devote himself to, none other than Vernon’s own iconic creation, Spellbound, in which a silver half dollar continually and mysteriously transforms into a copper English Penny, and then back again. 

Albert Goshman: Spellbound


Michael Skinner was both a friend and a mentor, and I wrote about him in Take Two #26. Sadly, the YouTube videos I posted at the time have since been taken down; I intend to replace the links in the essay with alternatives soon. However for the present, here is a wonderful film by Larry Thornton of Michael that begins with a brief interview. He then moves on to performance (without sound), that includes a number of his favorite routines, most of which I had the chance to see him perform many times. The final routine was one he performed for me the very first time we met. 

Michael Skinner: Close-Up Magic


I devoted Take Two #31 to Martin Nash, who, living in Canada during the years of The Magic Palace, performed on the show many time.  This Thornton film is of Martin performing at the start of a lecture, presenting an assortment of material from his first two books by Stephen Minch. 

Martin Nash: The Charming Cheat


Last but not least, here are two new films of Jerry Andrus, whom I wrote about in Take Two #44. The first is of Jerry performing one of his own inventions, a routine that has been adopted by many others since. 

Jerry Andrus: Linking Pins


And here is an entire performance of Jerry’s from the 1977 PCAM convention. He does some signature pieces here like the Mystery of the Yellow Ball, Miser’s Miracle, and the Wichita Wonder, but there are also some other routines that I’m not certain he ever published, and several I’ve never seen before. I’m thrilled to discover them now. 

Jerry Andrus: PCAM 1977


I hope you’ll treat this is just a start, because there’s lots more awaiting your discovery in the Larry Thornton video exhibition, and I’m sure I’ll be looking at more, and hopefully sharing it with you, in the future. 






Take Two

Take Two is an archive of seventy-one rich and colourful essays, by Jamy Ian Swiss, that examine the specific forms, or individual styles of magic and magicians, using two or more curatorial choices of magic videos to illustrate.

To find specific magicians or topics, visit the INDEX page.

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