The Great Dante


A T the conclusion of hi« magic /\ ahow, " Sim Sala Bim," now I \ installed at the Morosco, Professor Dante addresses tha audience somewhat aa follows: "Wa hope you have liked our ahow. If you have, tell your friend« about it. We naturally want to stay here long a« possible. Brings your children; if you haven't any, borrow some next door. It'a a clean ahow. We play matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays and every evening, including Sundays."

Although that may sound like a shameless sales talk, unbecoming such a protean artiat as Professor Dante, this column hastens to do what he says. His whim is law In the Times Square neighborhood. For the Professor is one of the great men of his time. He is a Danish-American magician with the 'soft white hair of an aging showman, the goatee of a man of science and the twinkling eyes of a humorist. Driven out of Europe by the carnage there, he has coma to New York with Moi-Yo Millar-arid her mystery girls in an evening program that embodies, according to the program, "transformations, comedy, magic, novelty, illusions, skill, quick changee and transfigurations extraordinary." Now you ■ee it, now you don't. Hold on to your watch and try to keep your feet o.\ the ground.

mHE world in general and N«w

I York in particular is full of skeptics who do not believe that Professor Dante 1« on the level. As he shifts mystery girla from one cabinet to another or draws real beer from an empty keg they watch him with disapproving Incredulity. But this column has no reason to doubt that Professor Dante 1» a demigod temporarily aa-auming human form, for it sat through his program on Tuesday evening without having the remotest idea of how he was bringing off his wonders. Oh, perhaps there was the suspicion of a trapdoor aomewhere in the stage, and once or twice there was a hint of something exceedingly artful. But most of it was sheer supernaturalism. How elae could the three rlnga borrowed from ladles In the audience turn up, tightly tied on roses, inside a aeries of locked boxes? Some people scornfully pretend to know 'how these things are dona. Some people will not believe anything.

Apart from his feats of magic, Frofeasor Dante comes with other fond enticements. He has not deviated a hair from the traditional style of magic-show staging. "Corny" is probably the right word for it. You never heard such loud music as his orchestra plays, apparently at random. The Oriental style is strong in hla curtains and props. The girls wear hundreds of exotic costumes, ranging from the Spanish or Mexican to the Arabian or Chinese. The attendants, who swing the cabinet« around to show you that everything Is above board, are uniformed within an inch of their lives. The props are luxuriantly embellished with gilt and red. All the old-time silk handkerchiefs turn up as usual In hats and sleeves and the cloths that mask the tricks are more mysterious in design than Persia or Tibet. Professor Dante's show is decently caparisoned after the familiar style of vaudeville hokum. He has not tampered with ritual*

OVER all this bizarrerie he presides with the sardonio bland-ness of the old-time showman. He makes his entrance in a costly evening cape carelessly flung over full dresa, and the tails of his coat almost touch the floor. Out of respect for his dignity as head wonder man, he rushes in and out of costume all evening to give his numbers the proper look of authenticity. When he transforms a couple of black socks into a sketch of Gar bo, he dons the beret and smock of the great school of painters. He keeps turning up in turbana as his mysteries go deeper. As befits a man of his eminence, he is waited on obsequiously by a staff of uniformed slaves. No one expects the Professor to perform menial tasks; If he drops anything, a servant picks it up. After he has doffed one turban, a page waits on him with mirror and comb while he puts his silken hair In order again. People of exalted station are accustomed to service.

In general, the Professor Is all grace, courtesy and Insouciance. He acknowledges—he even encourages—applause by waving his arms In a proud salaam. Keeping up a running fire of innocuous patter, he "passes among the audience" with marvelous aplomb. Everything he does is stupendous; every-»' thing is prodigious, miraculous, amazing. "Presenting a rapid series of bewildering sensations," says the breathless program. "The absolute climax in modem stagecraft. All natural laws are set aside^ The unnatural becomes real. The unreal becomes a common- j place." I

That gives yo* a rough Idea of' the style of the Great Dante, prcP fessor of the occult, grand panjandrum of magic. He can do everything except sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the last scene. That is the only trick he has not mastered yet.

The Billboard September 21, 1940 MOROSCO

Beginning Monday Evening, September 9.

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