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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » R.I.P. Chung Ling Soo (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of drwilson
Today is the eighty-eight anniversary of the death of Chung Ling Soo, The Marvelous Chinese Conjurer.

On Saturday, March 23, 1918, Chung Ling Soo took the stage at the Wood Green Empire Theater in London. Chung Ling Soo, The Marvelous Chinese Conjurer, opened with a series of small sleight-of-hand feats, progressing through larger illusions and building to the climax of his act, “Defying the Bullets.”

Volunteers from the audience scratched markings into two bullets that were brought to the stage and loaded into two muzzle-loading rifles. Chung Ling Soo, stood at the opposite end of the stage, holding a porcelain plate before his chest. On previous occasions, he had caught the marked bullets in his teeth and spit them out onto the plate. In his last performance, he failed. A bullet passed through the right side of his chest and out his back. He fell to the stage, the curtain dropped, and several hours later Chung Ling Soo passed from the realm of mortals.

Chung Ling Soo was, in real life, the American conjurer William Robinson, who had for many years worked for two of America’s most successful illusionists, Harry Kellar, and later, his rival Alexander Herrmann. He was a talented builder of magical apparatus, but he had only emerged as a performer in his own right by abandoning his identity and pretending to be Chinese.

Earlier, in 1909, Robert Kudarz, the Melbourne correspondent of an American theatrical paper, wrote:

“Nothing can manifest more study, more excellent method, more delicate conception, or more artistic execution than the entertainment now under notice. Ease and finish are the outstanding characteristics o a performance which is that of a master hand. Chung Ling Soo holds his audience enrapt without effort, his touch is subtlety itself, the stage properties he uses are most lavish and attractive in themselves, and the effects he produces are to a degree picturesque and startling.

The great charm of his performance is that (as Charles Lamb says of roast pig) ‘the strong man may fatten on it and the weakly refuseth not its tender juices.’ While it affords substance for the thought and admiration of the adult, it is food for the amusement and wonder of the child. And after the time spent in feasting on it overnight we do not rise in the morning and think what fools we have made of ourselves for wasting our time on such things.

It affords subject alike for conversation in the drawing room and in the study, and in looking at it we may improve our minds as well as delight our eyes. But to those who practise magic, be they amateur or professional, there is indeed much food for thought and much to be gained, for the whole of Soo’s beautiful entertainment is a veritable object lesson in the art of magic.”

That review is a concise statement of what we might all aspire to in performance. R.I.P. Chung Ling Soo, Marvelous Chinese Conjurer, born William Robinson, known to his many friends in his day as Rob.
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The Jersey Shore
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Profile of sethb
There is a new biography of Chung Ling Soo by Jim Steinmeyer, CLICK HERE for more information. SETH
"Watch the Professor!!" -- Al Flosso (1895-1976)
"The better you are, the closer they watch" -- Darwin Ortiz, STRONG MAGIC
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Inner circle
Bar Harbor, ME
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Profile of drwilson
The Glorious Deception by Jim Steinmeyer is a wonderful book. Here's a review by Teller:

I also really treasure The Silence of Chung Ling Soo. The press quote in my original post is from the book by Will Dexter.


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