Magic makes me weepy sometimes.
It’s been a part of my life on and off over the years. As a kid I can remember trips to a dingy little magic shop, the only one in town. I saw the shop owner demo some wonderful but simple illusions. I could only afford the cheaper plastic effects, and cheapened them even more by not practicing enough before I showed them to patient friends and family. I devoured books on magic from the library, trying to figure out each trick before I read how it was done.
My few insights into the “backstage” of magic have only deepened my appreciation for professional magicians. I know about the hours of practice that are necessary for perfecting an illusion, making each movement convincing and natural. My reaction was often similar to Johnny Carson’s. I would watch magicians on The Tonight Show do close-up magic for Carson. Johnny used to do magic himself, and his reaction was perhaps even more of a compliment for the magician. Not a gasp, or a look of puzzlement, but a knowing smile and occasional burst of astounded laughter and a “wow!”.
Sleight of hand is the Mount Olympus of magic. More than any other form, it places enormous demands on the magician. The level of dexterity required is phenomenal, equal to that of the acrobat or dancer. Precise, controlled, beautiful, and in the hands of a master, a work of art.
Which is probably why I was moved to tears at times by this video of the entire routine of one of the greatest sleight of hand artists, Cardini. His wordless performance, producing a seemingly endless stream of cards, cigarettes, and other items is a marvel. (Wordless, indeed – how appropriate that the man we know as Cardini was born in a village called Mumbles?)
After watching this, you may have a hankering for more – if so, I recommend doing a Google video search for some of the other great sleight of hand magicians – Dai Vernon, Ricky Jay, and others listed here.
Beauty dances with wonder. Bravo, maestro, bravo.
Another appreciation of Cardini can be found in this blog entry posted by the person who posted the above video.
Cardini on Festival of Magic (1957)