In ‘Magic in the Moonlight’, released in cinemas September 19th, Colin Firth’s character Stanley Crawford wows audiences in his guise as world-class illusionist ‘Wei Ling Soo’.
To celebrate the film’s release this Friday (and Firth’s stage persona’s fabulous outfit!) we’ve got a run-down of the greatest real-life magicians and illusionists, from Harry Houdini to Carter the Great, who have captured the world’s imagination.
One of the most renowned artists of the 20th Century, Harry Houdini’s legend is still fervent in popular culture. His great escapes were watched by thousands – being buried alive to being suspended from the ankles in a strait jacket. It seems there was nothing he couldn’t do.
Carter the Great
Charles Joseph Carter rose to fame in the early 1900’s. He was most famous for his disappearing live elephant act and sawing a woman in half. After his death in 1936 his son Larry Carter took up the baton continuing the Carter the Great legacy.
Siegfried and Roy
The German-American duo climbed to fame in the early 90’s accompanied by their big cats. Their Las Vegas show at the Mirage is still one of the most watched productions in history. Unfortunately it was during one of these performances that saw Roy attacked by Montecore a white tiger. After a seven year recovery Siegfried and Roy performed their final show with the very tiger that had attacked years previously.
At 19 Copperfield was already headlining across the US. Like Houdini before him his most notable talent lies in his elaborate escapist routines. This earned him the rank of most profitable solo performer after grossing over $4 billion.
Derren Brown came onto the scene with his mind games and inconceivable illusions. His stage presence has brought him a renowned reputation for live shows as well as reaching audiences through their TV set – literally holding you in your seat. His psychological prowess is both mindboggling and alluring making him one of the most successful magicians of the 21st Century.
Touring originally as the Great Jansen, Dante eventually landed his new stage name whilst performing with Howard Thurston. He excelled at illusion and often performed with a troupe of 30. He went onto dapple in theatre and film.
Harry Blackstone Sr.
Harry Blackstone was unrivalled in his vanishing acts and tricks of allusion. As one of the last magicians of the so-called ‘Golden Age’ he performed throughout the early 1900’s, up until his death in 1965. His son, Harry Blackstone Jr has continued his father’s legacy.
Penn and Teller
After joining forces in the 1970s, the duo stormed the worldwide circuit, particularly through their TV appearances across high profile shows.
The Great Lafayette
Known for his disappearing acts, quick changes and extraordinary shows, The Great Lafayette was a enigmatic and daring performer. Unfortunately he died by his trade, on 14 May 1911 a stage lamp caught alight trapping the cast and crew on stage. It was tragically his last show, a victim of the blaze, it took them two days to discover his body (originally mistaking his double for him).
As well as breaking countless world records, Blaine’s street magic and large scale stunts have earned him a worldwide reputation in skills of endurance. Above and Below saw him suspended above the Thames for 44 days without food or water. He has since gone on to hang suspended for 60 hours, shackled to a rotating gyroscope for 16 hours and buried under a ton of water.
The 21st Century’s sleight of hand genius merges elements of Derren Brown’s psychological skills and David Copperfield’s intriguing stunts. Armed with a pack of cards Dynamo quickly rose to the status of celebrity.
Chin Ling Foo
Born in Beijing, Chin Ling Foo brought the orient to the western world after training the art of magic in China for many years. He famously challenged any magician to recreate his water bowl trick where he pulled a child out of the water. Often cited as the first Oriental Conjurer, he claimed a place in the magician’s hall of fame.
‘Magic in the Moonlight’, released in cinemas September 19th