Max Malini


Max Malini

FROM 1923 until 1932 I was resident in the Hill

Station hotels of Nuwara Eliya and Kandy in

Ceylon. These towns are comparative health resorts and a large percentage of the visitors in those days were either world travellers or residents of the Far East who could not afford the time to visit Europe and had come there for health reasons.

I was performing frequently in clubs, lodges, lounges and bars, and almost invariably someone from Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore would introduce himself and tell me about a conjurer named Malini. Many of these stories were obviously the usual layman's exaggerated descriptions of a conjuring effect but I found the description of certain items recurred with great regularity. All of these were card effects.

The most frequent tale dealt with part of an ambitious card routine in which Malini repeatedly pushed the top card off and replaced it as second with one hand (See Buckley's ' Card Control' page 88, ' A Different Top Change') and showed it to have returned on top. The second effect was the card on ceiling or wall. Malini used two methods for this—wax for mirrors behind bars and a pin for the ceiling. He used to get into trouble over this because he refused to differentiate between teak wood which is common for ceilings and is too


hard for a drawing pin to enter and a common ceiling board Lunumadilla which is a timber little harder than balsa wood and suited his purpose admirably, as the card really stayed put!

Cms Colombo!

The third most common feat was the vanish of a chosen card and its revelation by a similar card planted well ahead of the show in some impossible place usually a room Malini had ' never ' entered.

I never met any reference to his celebrated card stabbing routine and his button biting trick was only mentioned twice. Generally the only remembered items which publicised him were from his impromptu performances and not from his set show.

_________________________________________Dai Vernon confirmed this aspect of Malini, i.e., that he could give Houdini points on obtaining and maintaining publicity. His sole object was to publicise Malini as a magician and he did this so successfully that the fact that much of the material in his shows did not warrant his great reputation was overlooked. The mere fact that he was the Great Malini, his murder of the English language, and his grand manner invariably left the laymen satisfied and wanting more despite some of the most extended time-killing it is possible to imagine and to some of the effects

VOLUME 9, No. 12 - 1/6. (20 Cents) - SEPTEMBER 1955

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description for The Pentagram.

I will add that I have worked the effect many hundreds of times under very varied conditions and I know of no trick which gives more satisfactory audience reaction and ultimate publicity.

being little more than mediocre.

To see Malini ambling about [a Hotel dining room or lounge was an education. Spinning a plate, vanishing a tumbler, levitating a knife, producing a coin from a roll etc., were all minor miracles in his hands.

As part of his reputation builder Malini used many devices which can only be called ' stunts'; they were not tricks in the ordianry sense of the word inasmuch as they were impracticable for ordinary use. Nevertheless he considered them well worth the effort and went to an inordinate amount of trouble to bring them off. The most notorious of these was his production of a brick from a hat. This appears to have been done on relatively few occasions with no set method. As a full sized brick will not fit into a hat, Malini used a half brick, a lump of concrete, a granite sett or block of ice. It was not until 1937 that news of this Malini effect reached me and at that time the magical production of a brick had been in my repertoire for some ten years.

It had come about by stages. In my early days I had been very impressed by the Birmingham buskers* hat loading and had seen guinea pigs, pigeons and cabbages used. I had developed a guinea pig production of my own of which I was very fond. In Ceylon I made an arrangement with the local Pasteur Institute which kept some thousand guinea pigs, to trade in my pig when it got too large. Despite this, guinea pigs were a certain amount of trouble to look after and when I found a rat snake had swallowed my pig just before a show and was unable to get out of the cage owing to the bulge, I decided to look for some other equally effective load. After using a coconut for some time I decided on a brick as being simultaneously the most incongruous and incompressible object. I was influenced in this choice by Ellis Stanyon who at that time had a favourite expression to the effect, that with proper misdirection anyone could palm a brick!

Whether anyone else will consider this effect to be worth while remains to be seen, but in deference to Peter's persistence here is a detailed


The performer, with an assistant from audience, commence to play "Heads and Tails" with a coin in a hat. The performer then undertakes to pass the coin under the hat magically but on lifting the hat a glass of milk is found. The performer explains that this is not very difficult and with practice one can even palm a brick; the hat is then lifted and a brick is shown to be beneath it. The performer explains that the only real difficulty about this is in finding a hat large enough to take a brick. The hat is placed down and when lifted again a moment later a second brick is found. The bricks are knocked together and proved genuine.


In the tropics where washable coats are worn even for dress wear, attached fakes are a nuisance, and as braces are practically unknown I began to attach all fakes to a belt; these then hang correctly for any coat. When Buckley published ' Principles and Deceptions' I remember my annoyance at finding that he too had " invented" my belt technique and my patent holders for balls, coins and cards.

A belt can be worn satisfactorily in this country in addition to braces with dress clothes, by making slits at the side seams of the trousers to allow the belt to be passed through and buckled in front of the stomach before buttoning up the trousers. Fakes as used in the Buckley book are then usable




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without the necessity of attaching them to various suits and without the weight of the loads distorting the coat.

The requirements for the routine are as follows: —

1. A good quality one inch leather belt with buckle (not friction grip!).

2. Two brass holders for the bricks.

3. One holder for the tumbler with ring for snap hook on belt.

The drawing shows in complete detail the make up of the brick holders and also the tumbler holder.

4. Two bricks with a screw inserted. Again the accompanying illustration shows the correct positioning. A standard brick is nine inches long and for a 7} hat requires to be shortened to seven inches. This lopping off is not sufficient to be noticeable.

6. A soft felt hat with the sweat band stuck or sewn down. The reason for this is to prevent the coin from slipping down between the sweat band and the side of the hat.

7. A newspaper.


The loads are set on their respective holders, the accompanying photograph No. 1. showing the positions they should occupy.

It is suggested that should the angles be disadvantageous to the performer only one brick be used. With the jacket slipped on, the paper and hat in hand and coin in pocket, the performer is ready to present the effect.

THE PRESENTATION The newspaper is laid on the table the hat then going on top of it crown uppermost. At this point you should be standing squarely behind the table. The assistance of a spectator is requested and being forthcoming he is positioned close to you on your left. He should face the audience and be slightly in front of you.






State that possibly his first introduction to gambling was that old fashioned pastime called 'Pitch and Toss.' Taking the coin and spinning it you remark that you will show him a new way of playing it, a way incidentally which is much fairer. Drop the coin in the hat shaking it around and then invert the hat so that the coin falls on the newspaper. The hat is kept over the coin. Go on to state that as it was your spin it is naturally his call. What will he have, 'Heads or Tails?' The assistant makes his call the hat is lifted and he is shown whether he is correct or not.

At this point move the assistant behind the table, you moving slightly right but at the same time keeping as close to him as possible and slightly to his rear. Again you place the coin in the hat but this time you point out that it is the assistant's spin and your call.

As he goes to carry out the necessary manoeuvre your left hand reaches under the coat and with a slight rocking movement pulls the glass of milk off the rubber holder. The left hand comes down from under the coat, the glass of milk being shielded by the hand 'and the assistant's body which, as it should be remembered, is in close proximity to the performer. At the point where the hat has been placed crown downwards on the table with the coin beneath it you call ' heads' or ' tails,' reach out with the right hand lifting the hat to check whether you have made a correct or incorrect call. The hat is passed to the left hand which is raised at the same time so that the glass of milk goes inside the hat. This is more or less a standard ' cup and ball' load. After taking the coin with the right hand looking and registering the reaction of being either right or wrong, it is placed at the edge of the table. The right hand comes back to the left and gripping the load through the hat carries it away and places it crown downwards on the table. With experience with this method of affixing the glass, its detachment and subsequent loading the reader will find the great superiority over the more usual type of rubber covered load, with the necessity of disposing of the cover before pro




duction. The coin is now taken and after performing a flourish such as the coin roll with the left hand, the right hand grips the glass through the top of the hat and casually lifting both from the table slightly moves them to another position. This emphasises the apparent emptiness of the hat.

Pointing out that you have done nothing very magical so far, explain that you will now perform a most difficult feat of magic by making the coin pass invisibly from your hand to underneath the hat. The coin is vanished by any desired method, but I suggest that the most spectacular method for this occasion is the convention,«,! vanish from a fold in the trousers, the coin being stolen and retained by the left hand. When the effect of the vanish has been fully assimulated by the audience the coin is surreptitiously disposed of in the left coat pocket.

Stand close to the assistant and ask him to make a call of whether the vanished coin has arrived under the hat "head" or "tail." As he makes his decision, possession of the first brick is obtained from under the coat by the left hand, whilst the right lifts up the hat disclosing the glass of milk. Express surprise at the unexpected result and with an action of hands and hat similar to that used for the load of the glass of milk, load brick No. 1 inside the hat, then, with the right hand place the hat with brick on the table, the left hand taking the glass of milk and offering it to the assistant. The trick to all intents and purposes has reached its climax. Patter as desired and keeping close to the assistant free brick number 2 with the left hand. The hat is now lifted to disclose the brick and again with a similar set of actions the hat comes from the right to the left and the second brick is loaded inside. The full effect of the appearance of the brick is allowed to register on the audience before the right hand takes the loaded hat preparatory to placing it crown down upon the table whilst the left lifts up brick No. 1. Show it to the assistant allowing him to notice that it is a genuine brick and not something made of rubber or papier mache. With the remark that, " The only difficulty about this trick is to find a hat large enough to accommodate a brick," take up the hat and brick No. 2 with the right hand and bring the brick No. 1 in the left hand across the opening of the hat.

Photograph No. 3 shows how No. 1 brick is held and because it has its wide side across the narrow side of No. 2 brick in the hat, the latter is completely concealed, as the performer goes on to say, " You can see this one is almost too large for this hat." Care must be taken in carrying out this strategem that the surfaces of the bricks do not meet and ' talk.' Carefully handled, this piece of subtlety is perfect in misdirecting the minds of the audience. The hat, care being taken that the load cannot be glimpsed, is placed back upon the table, whilst the brick first produced is placed alongside. After suitable remarks the second brick is produced.

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