Today’s topics are: Roy Benson in the movies; Clint Eastwood interviewed by Michael Parkinson; EndersGame’s review of “The Prophecy”; Remembering Vanni Bossi.
These are The Magic Memories 77, gone online Sunday, June 19th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
Roy Benson Performing Magic in The Lady Objects (1938)
Although I’m neither an expert in the matter nor a collector, I enjoy findig and watching old movies that have a magician perform or just act in it. If you find this interesting, too, I will from time to time point out such a movie with the appropriate link to where you can watch it legally, as they have become public domaine, and also make a few comments – how else 🙂
The movie I would like to direct your attention to today is from 1938, The Lady Objects, and features magic legend Roy Benson (see the huge tome Roy Benson – By Starlight, by Levent, and published by The Miracle Factory). In the course of the movie Benson performs three pieces in two scenes. Although performing in a movie certainly doesn’t evoke the same feeling as witnessing the same tricks in the context of a magic performance, Benson’s originality in method and presentation shines through well enough – in any case worth watching!
To enjoy the full movie (ca. 65 minutes), or to selectively view Roy Benson at 00:09:10 (Billiard Ball Production & short Flourish Routine, T & R Newspaper) and 00:31:34 (Chinese Sticks), CLICK HERE.
If you are my generation you might enjoy watching the complete movie, because, first, it is not as today’s productions, which last at least two hours, second, when they speak there is no distracting background noise that is supposed to make the scene more realistic but really prevents people over 50 to hear what they are saying (and that’s the important thing, isn’t it?), third, there are no scenes where someone vomits without which no modern film can do, an fourth and best of all, you can watch it only once and completely understand the plot.
Clint Eastwood Interviewed on Parkinson
Since we’re discussing magicians and movies, this might interest you: Recently I watched Clint Eastwood being interviewed on the Michael Parkinson Show (UK 2003).
Among other noteworthy things Eastwood had this to say: “Special effects are so wonderful nowadays, they are done so well, that they become the motor factor for doing a movie. The effects drive it, so the story becomes secondary. Whereas in the old days the story was primary, and everything else sort of fit on top. But if there is no story, there is no reason to being out there.”
And a little later he opined: “Technology is so advanced that special effects, action scenes, have become very realistic; these have become the main feature, and the story is pushed into the background. In the older films it was the other way round: The story was the most important thing, and was accentuated with a few special effects.”
And in magic? To be thought about…
For those who have time to watch the interview (ca. 20 minutes) you ca DO SO HERE.
Reminds me of the series Prison Break, of which I watched the first two seasons just recently. I found the first season formidable as far as suspense is concerned, and quite captivating, solid entertainment.
Certainly motivated by the huge success the series had, they created a second season, and then a third, fourth etc.
I stopped watching after the second season.
It made me think of what Dai Vernon says in one of the Chronicles (can’t remember which one) when talking about someone doing the Egg Bag, or the Ambitious Card, or the Linking Rings, or any of those great classics based on the repetition of essentially the same effect: “You have to know when to stop.”
I cannot but agree with this statement, as it is very much like a painter who is overpainting his canvas, because he cannot extend it in size. Nonetheless, it is interesting to remark that virtually all “Classics” repeat the same effect… but you still have to “use your head”.
EndersGame’s Review of “The Prophecy”
If you haven’t yet ordered “The Prophecy” because you had some doubts, you might want to read an independent review that’s neither from Penguin Magic (the publisher) nor myself (the author), but from EndersGame, an Honored Member of “The Magician’s Forum”, one of the top magic fora (plural of forum…).
To read EndersGame’s review of “The Prophecy” CLICK HERE.
Remembering Vanni Bossi
There is no doubt that Vanni Bossi would justify a book, I don’t mean a book of tricks (there is one!), but one of his life… and then several of his tricks, historical essays etc. Here was a Renaissance man if ever there was one.
Vanni lived in Castellanza, Italy, and had his shop, where he sold trophy cups and medals, some of which were of his own design, in Legnano, a village nearby.
Since my own relatives come from Tortona, in Piedmont, on my visits to them, it was just a fifteen minutes detour to go and see Vanni, which I did at least twice a year on my way back to Switzerland (he lived about 20 minutes from the Swiss border).
I always tried to be at his shop “Il Medaglione” (the big medal) around 10 o’clock in the morning, we would take a first espresso at his favorite bar round the corner – he would drink at least five or six espressi a day…
Then we’d retire to the backroom of the shop where he’d show me the many things he had created since my last visit.
He was very generous and almost always gave me a sample of the gimmick, prop or what it was. At home I have a box with everything he gave me over the years and I keep them as a treasured souvenir of our very special friendship.
Inevitably, at noon we went to a restaurant – always a very good one – and had a great meal. The antipasti buffet with great seafood and then a griliata mista of fish was our standard, with a bottle of wine, another espresso and of course the Grappa, usually on the house, as Vanni was sort of a VIP in his village. And of course the magic talks got better with every minute. After that we would often go to his home, where he proudly showed me his latest literary acquisitions, which were often very rare magic publications, mostly in Italian.
After that, and a bottle or two of water, to bring me back to “normal”, I would head back home, a comfortable three-hour car drive, with now plenty of things to think about. I will never forget these wonderful meetings and times.
So, you see, not only was Vanni a likable and experienced performer, he was an outstanding creator and and even more remarkable collector of old magic books and historian.
In the photo below you can see Vanni and myself sitting in my downstairs small library and trying to link smoke rings!
Like myself Vanni liked fine dining, wines, cigars and liquors (as you can see from the glass, always in very responsible quantities…). One evening we were smoking a cigar, and in-between I went to the kitchen to get some chocolates – hey, it’s Switzerland 🙂 – when I came back I did a double-take, “Vanni, you are smoking a cigarette, but we’re smoking cigars here!” He laconically replied, “Yes, il continue smoking it in just a minute, but in-between I had to take a few deep drags!” (Explanation for those who don’t smoke cigars: You don’t inhale the smoke of a cigar as you would a cigarette.)
I should also mention that Vanni was very generous and shared a lot (but not all!) of his knowledge and creations with the magical fraternity through many lectures (and quite a bit of lecture notes). He once remarked to me, “Roberto, you know, many of my lectures, I gave for the first time for you and your club.”
As a matter of fact, I had been organizing about six lectures a year for my magic club in Basel, the “Zauberring Basel”, since ca. 1980 (that’s a lot of talent I’ve hosted at my home in all these years…). And each time I visited with Vanni I asked him, “Have you got a new lecture?” And if he had, I would invite him to come and see me for a few days, and then give his lecture, which he did most of the time!
However, being quite of a dynamic person, he would inevitably arrive in the late afternoon of the day preceding the lecture, we would spend the evening at my home where Barbara and I would prepare a sophisticated meal for us, and then we’d talk and magish far into the wee hours. The next day we’d sleep in, enjoy a relaxed day (of magic!), and in the evening he’d give his latest lecture that was always enthusiastically received. And he did all this for a very modest fee that barely covered his expenses – a truly generous gentleman. Next morning, though, he would head back home, and never stayed more than two nights 🙂
I could really go on forever writing about Vanni, his findings, the travels, lectures and shows we shared, in Italy and abroad, but have instead taken the liberty of extracting my own foreword to Vanni’s book The Aeretology of Vanni Bossi, originally published by Stephen Minch’s Hermetic Press, now distributed by Penguin Magic, who bought the rights to it.
It will tell you a few more things about a dear friend missed sorely.
To read and/or download the PDF CLICK HERE.
You can buy Vanni’s book from most magic dealers, or directly from the publisher Penguin Magic HERE.
All the very best,