Sunday, June 26, 2022

A Bit of Houdini Music

 



Take a listen. Sound familiar? This is the music used throughout the 1953 Tony Curtis HOUDINI movie. Though in the movie, it was only the orchestrated version, no lyrics. Here in this clip of Judy Garland singing the song, "Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland", you almost expect Tony Curtis as Houdini to talk into the scene!

And here is an even older rendition of the song. One in which the REAL Houdini would have been familiar. 1909 or 1910.






Monday, June 20, 2022

Robert Houdin's OTHER Theatre Still Exists!

 

Sandervalya, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine my surprise while reading an article about Robert Houdin's performance in Algeria, that the theatre that he did his most famous performances in, was still standing today. Those most famous performances were on Oct 28 and 29, 1856. They were the legendary performances that Houdin would claim 'stopped a War'. 

Robert-Houdin

The theatre at the time was called, Bab-Azoun Theatre. Today that very same theatre still stands and is known as Théâtre National Algérien Mahieddine Bachtarzi or, The Alegerian National Theatre. It was also formerly the Algiers Opera House.

As the story goes, Robert Houdin was contacted by the French Government to help suppress some uprisings and conflicts with the local tribal marabouts. The idea was to show that 'french magic was greater than the magic of the marabouts.' 

The show took place at the Bab-Azoun Theatre with about 60 chieftains taking up the first few rows and I'm assuming quite a few other locals as well. The show featured much of the standard Robert Houdin fare. The big moments were when he presented his Light and Heavy Chest (see below), followed by a rendition of the Bullet Catching feat. 

There is some controversy concerning this event, which Jim Steinmeyer explains in his new blog column: https://jimsteinmeyer.com/2022/04/13/what-we-hide-problems-in-algeria-part-one/  This information is also covered in the book, The Secret History of Magic by Peter Lamont and Jim Steinmeyer. They tear apart the accounts of the Algeria event to discover what was true, what was false, how much was exaggeration. Suffice to say, it's clear now that a great deal of the event as recorded in Houdin's Memoirs, was untrue or at least exaggeration. 

But one thing is clear, the shows DID HAPPEN. And the theatre where these shows, which took Robert-Houdini out of retirement, is still standing today. Mr. Steinmeyer mentions on his blog that the theater would be a good place to hold a magic convention. Wow, can you imagine?!! How incredible that would be.  

An interesting side note, on the theatre Facebook Page, there are images of a kid-show magician doing a magic show on the stage. I wonder if this young man was aware of the historical event that took place on thiat very stage 166 years ago???

The Actual Light and Heavy Chest in the Klosterman Collection


Friday, May 27, 2022

Remembering a Great Magic Show, Le Grand David.

 


David Bull, the lead performer of Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company Show, mentioned on his Facebook page that today, May 27th, 2012 was the last performance of their grand show. It's been 10 years since that show closed it's curtains. And it had an incredible 35 year run.


The brainchild of Cesareo Pelaez, he along with a dozen or so fellow artists/performers, created a one of a kind spectacle of magic and variety arts. They purchased their own theater, The Cabot Cinema Theatre in Beverly Mass, and began work on their multi-cast production. They built their own props, painted their own scenery, sewed their own costumes.....and it didn't look like a poorman's DIY project. It looked Broadway caliber. Look at the poster to the right. This original painting is now in my collection, I see it daily. It captures the joy and the enthusiasm of the show and the cast. You'll never find any devils or demons on their posters. What you'll find is beauty and magic and love in all the designs. 

IF you were blessed to see the show, you know how tremendous it was. It was sort of a throwback to the old days of magic, but yet it was it's own thing. A unique take on magic that embraced variety, comedy, spectacle, showmanship and more. Imagine a 2 hour magic show with very little talking. Yet, that is exactly what they created. 

I miss that show greatly. But I miss the people more. The photo below is officially ten years old now, because it was the last time I would see the wonderful LGD Show and the last time inside their amazing theatre. I still miss them