“The Suave Deceiver”
Not to be confused with our excellent contemporary Cardone (whom we’ve written about here from time to time), Cardini (Richard Valentine Pitchford, born today in 1894) is considered by many to be the father of modern card magic. So revered is he in fact, that I found no less than two web sites for him: one purported to be the “only authorized site” ; and another one which, on the other hand, looks far better and was created by Cardini’s grandson. You be the judge.
Cardini hailed from a Welsh mining village. It is said that he started doing card tricks during the First World War in order to keep his hands warm. This is also the reason given for the fact that he always wore gloves — and if you think about it, it is extremely rare for a magician to wear gloves when performing sleight of hand. Think of the difficulty involved. He developed his act and persona—the dashing, monacled, top hatted fellow — while touring Australia. By the mid 20s he was playing American vaudeville and a frequent hit at the Palace. His comical routine had him getting increasingly frustrated as objects (cards, ping pong balls, lit cigarettes) kept mysteriously materializing in his hands. In later years he was to take his act to night clubs, when vaudeville and music halls had gone the way of the dodo. He died in 1973.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville including magicians like Cardini, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.