Today is the birthday of Cecil Lyle (1892-1955). Billed as “The Great Lyle”, he was a star of Maskelyne and Devant’s presentations at St. George’s Hall. He began appearing in British music hall in 1913 with millinery-themed routines. He would place an unadorned hat under a piece of fabric, then make it reappear covered in fur and feathers. Another signature bit was his “Flying Gramophone”, in which he would make a a gramophone vanish while it was playing (a neat trick if you reflect on its difficulties for a second). Over the decades his presentation continue to expand until by 1941 he was touring with a full-length evening called the Cavalcade of Mystery featuring illusions from the repertoires of most of the great magicians of the age. Lyle was also a friend of Chung Ling Soo’s. He devised the China Tea Illusion for him, and was present on the evening of his fatal bullet catch.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.