According to Google, it is Harry Houdini's 137th birthday. Well, it would be if he was alive. Harry and me go way back. I was mad keen on magic and still am. When I was about 12 years old I was taken to see Man of Magic at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1966. Stuart Damon played Houdini. To be honest from what I can remember, it was not that good; a bit of a mishmash of songs, tricks and bits of business. The critics didn't like it either and it was taken off after 135 performances. As one observed, "the sort of fare that impresario Harold Fielding was used to assembling for the London coach trade." Of course, Stuart Damon was later to become well known to British audiences at the time for his role in The Champions, another fairly ersatz show about three semi-super people who had a headquarters in Geneva. Of course, none of it was shot anywhere outside of Elstree, with their headquarters being the Labour Exchange in Harpenden or somewhere.
Houdini does not really figure in my list of great magicians. He was primarily a showman and a huckster. David Blaine comes to mind. Sure, you cannot figure how it is done (oh, yes I can), but somehow, when he gets out of the box you just shrug and think, yeah, ok.
Many real magicians are not so well known, people like Rober Harbin or Ali Bongo or Patrick Page, Dai Vernon or David Devant. These people were amazing and more importantly entertaining. When David Nixon came along, he was a likeable chap and you didn't mind being fooled by him because he was so charming with it. Houdini was a bruiser with an ego and little formal education. His skill was showmanship. There's no escaping that fact.
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