Archive for Dante the Magician

Laurel and Hardy in “A-Haunting We Will Go”

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Hollywood (History), Laurel and Hardy, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by travsd


Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1942 comedy A-Haunting We Will Go, starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This is one of my favorite films from the team’s weakest period (1941-1951). A fairly conventional spook comedy, while still beneath the talents of the team, it is at least on par with the standard comedy fodder of the day (a low standard, but at least they weren’t beneath it on this occasion. Their vehicles sometimes were). Best of all, their co-star is Dante the Magician, and he proves to be a pretty good actor.

Laurel and Hardy play a pair of hobos who get a job transporting a coffin (little knowing that it contains, not a corpse, but a con man with an elaborate scheme). The coffin gets mixed up with one of Dante’s magic trunks. Then the pair become Dante’s assistants! And then…they get entangled with a fairly boring plot…the usual gangster business that was so popular in the 40s, which the studios seemed to think was so much better than letting two brilliant comedians be funny. But as I say, this one is better than the usual product of their late period, and it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an hour or so.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including Laurel and Hardy, don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc

Dante the Magician: Sim Sala Bim!

Posted in Hollywood (History), Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Stars of Vaudeville, Television, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by travsd

Today is the birthday of magician Harry August Jansen (1883-1955), originator of the magic words “Sim Sala Bim!” Interestingly, the phrase is not Arabic, as one would assume, but is taken from a Danish children’s song. Jansen was born in Copenhagen and immigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 6.

By his teenage years he was already performing magic. He played in vaudeville and Australian music hall for five years as The Great Jansen, briefly headed a Horace Goldin road company, and in 1922 was made anointed successor to Thurston (and thus the last in a long line of magicians leading up to him.) It was Thurston who dubbed him “Dante” (after an earlier magician by that name) and set him up with all his illusions, making him the head of a second company. Dante principally performed abroad, however, allowing Blackstone to fill the void in the public’s mind as Thurston’s successor. When Thurston died in 1936 and Dante returned to the states, a kind of rivalry ensued. In his last years, was a familiar sight in movies and on television. (He has a great role, for example, in the 1942 Laurel and Hardy film A-Haunting We Will Go.) He retired in the late 1940s.

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc

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