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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Everything old is new again » » Typical performances and tricks from the 1930's (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

MaxBeat
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Hi everyone!

I'm doing some research of magic during the 1930s and the depression. And what I have understood is that many stage magicians changed up their shows from a typical theater show to a night club show. How did these to show differ? What kind of trick did they perform in a theater vs night club? Who was a typical night club magician in the US during that time?

If you have any answers or any good sources for me to look into I would be very grateful!

Thanks a lot!
David Charvet
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The leading night club illusionist/magician during the 1930's was Jack Gwynne. He was the first to present an illusion act on a night club dance floor. He adapted his act so it could be worked with the audience surrounding him. I wrote a full biography of him (now out of print) and I also wrote the entry under "Jack Gwynne" on Wikipedia, which will give you basic information about his career.

The night club era developed from the Prohibition "speakeasies" which also coincided with the rise of the big band music era. The bands were featured at hotels and night clubs where people came to eat, drink and dance. The "floor shows" (many featuring magicians) were basically 4 or 5-act vaudeville shows, with a singer, comedian, ballroom dance act, and a novelty act (magician, juggler, etc.) The night club era for magicians lasted from about 1935 to 1955, when television then came firmly on the scene.

There were many other smaller magic acts during the era. Most every pro magician who was working during the 1930's played night clubs at one time or another. This includes Cardini, Ade Duval, Fred Keating, Dai Vernon, Glen Pope, Tommy Martin, Paul LePaul, and many, many more.
JNeal
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Get a copy of Programmes of Famous Magicians. This book will give you dozens of act summaries, descriptions and routines of working professionals from that period

Regards-
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ringmaster
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Look at the Sphinx and Genni from that period. A surprising number of name acts used standard catalog prop routines, pretty much as they came from Abbott's.
Jack Gwynne made the jump to early television appearing on Super Circus many time, he brought his trademark Temple of Benaris, along, every time . He also appeared in "Citizen Kane"
One of the last living 10-in-one performers. I wanted to be in show business the worst way, and that was it.
Bill Palmer
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The main difference between the theatre shows and the night club shows was the scale of the material. Theatre shows often had elaborate settings, sometimes several different settings, that would be changed while the act worked in front of the curtain between scenes.

The night club shows, on the other hand, were usually a lot less elaborate, with acts such as Jack Gwynne's being the exception, rather than the rule.

The night club era (for magicians) didn't die completely by 1955. It shrank somewhat, but there were still a lot of night clubs that had
magicians doing floor show performances during the band's breaks. It all depended on the kind of budget the nightclub had.

Del Ray, for example, played the Shamrock Hotel (The Emerald Room) quite often during the 1960's.

Television wasn't as common in certain parts of the country as it was in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. The major cities that didn't have full network access were numerous in the South, and that was where a lot of the magicians worked.
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MaxBeat
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Thank you all for you help! Amazing! Smile

Jack Gwynne, excellent, is it possible to get a hold of you bio? That would be great. I found some video of him on youtube! Do you guys have any links to videos from other night club acts?

Programmes of famous magicians, have never heard of that book, very interesting as well!

I will definitely check out Sphinx and Genii from that time, great stuff!

Does anyone know any specific tricks that changed with the transition theater to night club? How about escapes? I mean after Houdini died I guess every magician wanted to take his place?

Is Cardinis card manip routine a night club routine?

Thanks once again for all of your help!
Merc Man
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Max Beat - I've got a lot of info about UK magicians from a booklet produced by Davenports in 1939 titled (aptly) 'Programmes of Magicians'.

However, magic in the UK didn't really change from theatres to smaller cabaret engagements until the early 1950's. Even then, the Granada Theatres and Music Halls still pulled in a decent crowd.

I know a lot of info as my Dad worked in the British Army for E.N.S.A. and became a professional magician after the War.

I don't think it's the UK scene that you are after but feel free to PM me if you want.
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foolsnobody
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Is there any film or converted film footage extant of Fred Keating? I have Programmes of Famous Magicians and his act and personality intrigued me. Anyone old enough to have seen him? (smoking out the *real* codgers in the group)
David Charvet
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Todd Karr (Miracle Factory) has Keating footage. The best film of him just doing magic (not acting a role) is when he appeared on the "It's Magic" TV show from 1955 with host Paul Tripp. Keating does the Snowstorm in China, Needles (great!) and a Substitution/Switch with a Voodoo theme (much like Blackstone's "Who Wears The Whiskers.")You get a real feel for Keating's personality in this film, even though it was near the end of his career. His stage/acting training is obvious.

Find it here: http://miraclefactory.net/zenstore/index......ts_id=17
foolsnobody
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Thank you Mr. Charvet.
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