With ALAN KENNAUGH
So they are going to make a picture of the life of Houdini. In fact it may be on the way to release by the time you read this column. What can we expect to see in this film story? Well it seems to me that Hollywood will apply all their usual camera magic to this obviously good materialistic tale, and when "Roundabout" took a peep behind the scenes, I had a few home truths which have a familiar ring.
Up comes Janet Leigh co-starring in the part of Mrs. Houdini with her husband Tony Curtis in the title role. "Now I know what Bess Houdini went through" she says. For many weeks prior to actual production Tony had been preparing for his role, and is supposed to have studied several hours each day with "magic teacher" George Boston. Then he went home from the studio to keep up the merry round of tricks with Janet occupying the only seat in the audience. Like Bess Houdini, so the information goes, Janet was knee deep in silk hats, rabbits, card tricks, illusions, and a cabinet in which, ultimately, she will recline in the film while Tony saws her neatly in two.
Take a card—any card. That's all I hear from Tony" says Janet. "Instead of the good morning kiss he hands me a silk hat or some kind of magic box, then he asks me to examine it carefully. I don't want to examine it carefully.
The most harrowing part of my day is drivng back and forth to the studio. Tony is so mad on card tricks that he drives with only one hand, manipulating cards with the other. He says he wants to be good. I'll settle if he just stays alive.
'Tony won't even leave his cards and tricks at home when we're invited out. When there are guests at home out come the tricks. I can't get a word in" comments Janet. "But 1 hope Tony shows me a few tricks some day. I want to know how to make things disappear, and what I mean by "things" are his magic cards, rabbits, silk hats, and vanishing scarfs. What did I marry anyhow—a magic act."
There now, dear readers, does it go home? Even the attractive Miss Leigh with her obvious powers of misdirection has her problems. Should she chance to come to
London for any film premiere of "Houdini", she may like to drop into the Vampire Club and find a solution!
What are the official views on Tony's prowess as a budding Houdini? George Boston, the magician signed by Paramount to teach him tricks for the role is frankly astounded by his talents. "The man is a natural magician" says Boston. "In the short time I have worked with him he has mastered tricks that many good men couldn't figure out in months. He got one card trick, known in the art as "unbelievable" in a matter of three days." A magic school in Hollywood only presents this one to pupils in the last portion of a 32 week course, and the majority of students leave without being able to do it. Well, we will be watching and waiting for the Houdini film— and the Curtis performance.
By the way, now is your chance to get going in the publicity line if you are that way inclined, and you should be. Why not contact your own cinema manager to tie up with him on a publicity stunt a week prior to the "Houd ini" showing date? I can tell you that most cinema managers would jump at the tie-up. Even if you don't aspire to be a Houdini, and have no particular wish to be locked in a packing case and thrown over the nearest pier, there are many items which immediately suggest themselves. Predictions, and contact mind-reading spring to mind.
Max has a new Handcuff Escape which can be used as a build up, and a glance at the rear of the Vampire Catalogue will bring forth other items. The Blindfold Effect which lends itself to many ideas, is recommended.
All this brings me to the subject of organising a Press Conference, so I hope you will join the "Roundabout" next month for news on this point, together with other chat and comment.
GIPSY JACK * MYSTICO
For the non-sleight-of-hand performer here is a little card mystery that has an air of impossibility. The apparatus required is very simple. The first requirement is a piece of card x 3i" fitted into a small block of wood for a base, with a clip on top (See Illustration).
The pack having been shuffled, a spectator is asked to select four cards. These are shown round and partly fanned, and then placed under the clip face inward.
A card, one of the Jacks, must now be forced. This may be achieved by means of four paddles of cardboard x 1" (see illus.) Each has the name of a Jack on one side, and all have (say) the Jack of Hearts on their other side.
Having shown the paddles they are shuffled and reversed end for end. They are then slightly fanned, the lower parts being concealed in the hand. A spectator now chooses one of the protruding handles, and performer removes that paddle, showing the name to be Jack of Hearts.
Patter is now commenced to the affect that there are Gypsy cards as well as Gypsy humans. So saying, the second spectator is given the pack and asked to find his card. Whilst he is doing this the performer slides off the four cards stil2 clipped together from the stand, holds them by the clip and squares them up. A slight pressure on the clip helps this move.
The spectator is unable to find his card and the performer explains that he always knew the Jack of Hearts was a bit of a Gypsy on the quiet, and draws attention to the clipped cards in his hand. He now asks the first spectator to examine these cards. He does so and finds the Jack of Hearts amongst them. This finale astonishes most people as the four cards were clipped together the whole time, and the card stand has nothing to conceal at the finish!
It is a good idea, when you are closing the fan, to let the Jack come into the middle of the other cards.
If you haven't guessed already—the Jack of Hearts was before hand, clipped behind the stand. It was removed with the four cards on the front, an easy maneouvre after you have practised it two or three times.
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