We continue our look at magic technique with this revealing analysis of the performance of the great magician, Cardini, by an old colleague of mine, Julian Olf. This article first appeared in a 1974 popular entertainments issue of The Drama Review (TDR) that I worked on as an editor in my grad school days at NYU. Even back then I realized that Julian's take on magic as a form of acting offered a fresh perspective, and re-reading it today only reinforces that opinion. So happy to have tracked Julian down, and much thanks to him for kindly granting permission to share his work with readers of this blogopedia.
In his youth, Julian studied sleight-of-hand magic with the vaudeville magician Jack Miller. He later shifted his concentration to a study of theatre history and dramatic literature, receiving graduate degrees in these subjects from Columbia and NYU. He recently retired from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught playwriting, dramaturgy, and chaired the department. His plays have been produced in New York, Boston, Amherst, Los Angeles and Vancouver. His comedy, 1-900-Sex-Date, won the Nantucket Short Play Award. His one-character play, People Almost Always Smell Good in the Art Museum, was produced at UMass-Amherst, published in the fall 2008 issue of the Massachusetts Review, and nominated for a national Pushcart Prize. His screenplay, Anthony, inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, received a Gold Award at WorldFest International Film Festival (Houston) and was given a professional reading by The Drama Garage of Hollywood. His screen adaptation of Henry James’s short story, The Liar, was a finalist in America’s Best Screenplays. Click here for more information.
I've appended the only video footage of Cardini I could find. Julian points out that his article was based on his viewing of a different performance of Cardini, so readers should not attempt to match his narrative with the exact sequence in the video. The article is in pdf format and can be enlarged or downloaded using the buttons at the bottom of the Scribd window.—jt
And here's that footage of Cardini; a big thanks to blog reader Eddie Walsh for alerting me to a higher quality copy of the video than I had originally posted! —jt
Update (2-17-14): Cardini home movie.