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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Houdini and the cups & balls. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

epoptika
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I've seen the quote, countless times, attributed to Houdini that no-one can be considered an accomplished magician who has not mastered the cups and balls. Did Houdini ever actually do the cups himself, and if so, did he perform them competently?
Bill Palmer
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Someone posted here a long time ago that there was a newspaper report of Houdini doing the cups and balls. However, nobody seems to be able to find it.
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RiffRaff
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"It has been said that no one should consider himself a magician if he cannot work the cups and balls, which is not strictly true; the converse, however, does hold good - anyone who can perform the cups and balls skillfully is a good magician." - Jean Hugard in Hugard's Magic Manual c.1939.
John Cox
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Never heard of him doing the cups ad balls myself.
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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2011-01-14 22:28, RiffRaff wrote:
"It has been said that no one should consider himself a magician if he cannot work the cups and balls, which is not strictly true; the converse, however, does hold good - anyone who can perform the cups and balls skillfully is a good magician." - Jean Hugard in Hugard's Magic Manual c.1939.


But that has no bearing on this discussion. It doesn't prove whether or not Houdini ever did the cups and balls. It just proves that Hugard had a difference of opinion with Houdini. Interestingly, Hugard misquoted Houdini. And I would disagree with both of them.

For example, there is no record whatsoever of Slydini performing the cups and balls. However, nobody would disagree that he was a great magician. On the other hand, I know several people who can perform the cups and balls skilfully, without having any entertainment value of any kind. Their performances create no mystery. So it is bad magic. If all you can do is one routine, you definitely are NOT a magician.

You might as well have quoted John Boyce.
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RiffRaff
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Hugard didn't mention Houdini either. However the quote is relevant because evidently some authority had stated that it is necesary to master the cups in order to consider one's self a magician. And it's significant that the statement was made prior to 1939.
Bill Palmer
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You really don't get it, do you? The statement by Houdini was plastered all over all sorts of magic publications. Everyone knew who Hugard was referencing. And since Houdini died in 1926, the 1939 date is not significant, because OBVIOUSLY Houdini made the statement before he died. The only statement he ever made after he died was "BELIEVE," and that was faked.
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funsway
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I believe that in some of the early Genii's, Bess gave some interviews that mentioned C&B. I no longer have them but someone might check. My memory is that she said that the "Disciple" to learn C&B properly was essential to being a good magician -- no that one had to actually do it publically.

I could be confused with someone else, of course ...
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Bill Palmer
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Houdini actually wrote the statement, which appeared in several different publications. There was no equivocating about it. While he did not mention public performances, he did refer to mastering the cups and balls.

Some people feel that Houdini was a hypocrite. Orson Wells told the story about meeting Houdini backstage when he was a kid. Houdini told him that he never put anything into his act until he had rehearsed it 100 times. Then a fellow who was a magic builder came into the greenroom with a new prop and showed it to Houdini. Houdini bought it, and said, "This is great! I'll put it in the show tonight."

That odd sound that followed was that of a bubble bursting.
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houdinisghost
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That's nonsense. At least one biographer has said Orson couldn't have met Houdini, but, I have always believed Welles' story. Same as I've always believed Buster Keaton's stories about Houdini as opposed to some college girl biographer.
Orson's story is that his dad was a theatre manager and he took Orson backstage to meet Orson. Houdini taught the very prodigious young magic lover the pass. Orson was already playing classical piano on a concert level. Houdini told him to practice it (or any magic trick, Orson told it both ways) 100 times before he performed it.
Now, there are those people that can see things once and be able to do them perfectly. To my great consternation and frustration, I've known a few. Executing a move perfectly doesn't teach you the timing, the misdirection.
I've known some that can see something once and turn around and execute the thing with their own timing and misdirection, but, in my experience, these are guys that have been at it a long time. Magic teachers and technical consultants are often amazed at the way certain actors will learn a trick and make it their own amazingly quickly.
Actors spend their careers doing whatever what they are called upon to do.
The Cups and Balls will teach you everything about magic and even everything about life if you master it.
Now, Houdini told Orson to sit there and practice the move, a man came to the dressing room and told Houdini the prop had arrived and Houdini said great, he'd put it in the show that night.
The disconnect between being told that he must practice every trick 100 times before he performed it and hearing Houdini say he'd put a prop he'd never seen in the show that night struck Orson, with his seven (as I recall) year old genius intellect, funny.
But, Houdini would have been familiar with most magic props by that time (the last year of his life). He had worked with magic props all his life. He did not have to go back to school to put a new prop in the show.
There's plenty about Houdini to burst anybody's bubble, Bill, but not that story.
P.S. Nobody has come up with one of the Cups and Balls quotes yet.
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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
Actors spend their careers doing whatever what they are called upon to do.


SOME actors spend their careers doing whatever what they are called upon to do. The term in the acting biz is "actors who can take direction."

Others b*tch about having to do something that they don't understand or see the motivation for.

One director of a television series was quoted a few weeks ago as saying that it really ticks him off when an actor says, "My character would never say (or do) that."

His answer was, "It's not YOUR character. It's MY character. MY character does what I tell him to."

As far as the Houdini quote is concerned, I think (and that's all I can say is I think) that it appeared in Conjurer's Magazine. However, considering that Houdini probably never actually did the cups and balls, it is really not relevant at all in the big scheme of things that have to do with the cups and balls.

As far as Welles not being able to meet Houdini, with all the travelling Houdini did, it is quite likely that they met at some point, especially considering that Welles lived in Chicago, which I am sure was one of Houdini's regular "stops." Orson was 11 years old when Houdini died.

As far as Welles' playing classical piano on a concert level -- I'd like to see a recital program. I know his mother was a concert pianist.

According to at least one biography, Welles' father quit working about the time the family got to Chicago. If he was a theatre manager, that's news to me.
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houdinisghost
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"You really don't get it, do you? The statement by Houdini was plastered all over all sorts of magic publications."
"Houdini actually wrote the statement, which appeared in several different publications. There was no equivocating about it. While he did not mention public performances, he did refer to mastering the cups and balls."
"As far as the Houdini quote is concerned, I think (and that's all I can say is I think) that it appeared in Conjurer's Magazine. However, considering that Houdini probably never actually did the cups and balls, it is really not relevant at all in the big scheme of things that have to do with the cups and balls."
I don't think the statement was in Houdini's Conjurer's Monthly. I've looked. His references to the Cups and Balls indicate to me that he had performed it.
Now, Bill, since you hijacked this thread to give your opinion of some actors, I've got a bone to pick with you.
This is what you said:
SOME actors spend their careers doing whatever what they are called upon to do. The term in the acting biz is "actors who can take direction."
Others b*tch about having to do something that they don't understand or see the motivation for.
One director of a television series was quoted a few weeks ago as saying that it really ticks him off when an actor says, "My character would never say (or do) that."
His answer was, "It's not YOUR character. It's MY character. MY character does what I tell him to."
Who's the director? Michael Curtiz? George Stevens? George Cukor? John Ford?
Or some TV traffic cop?
I acted in theatre, TV and films for 35 years. I have never seen a television director who wasn't open to suggestions or who wasn't most interested if the actor who had been living inside a character's skin feels something the script might call for him to say or do might be out of character or continuity. Never. It doesn't work that way. I've worked with some great directors, some good directors and a few traffic cops.
Is that snippy quote you thought enough of to repeat really how you think it is in the profession? It's not the director's character. It's the actor's character. It's the writer's character. But never mind that, it takes about 15 seconds for a capable director to see what the actor is talking about and address it.
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