Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century

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9780252035104: Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century
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Disappearing Tricks revisits the golden age of theatrical magic and silent film to reveal how professional magicians shaped the early history of cinema. Where others have called upon magic as merely an evocative metaphor for the wonders of cinema, Matthew Solomon focuses on the work of the professional illusionists who actually made magic with moving pictures between 1895 and 1929.


The first to reveal fully how powerfully magic impacted the development of cinema, the book combines film and theater history to uncover new evidence of the exchanges between magic and filmmaking in the United States and France during the silent period. Chapters detailing the stage and screen work of Harry Houdini and Georges Méliès show how each transformed theatrical magic to create innovative cinematic effects and thrilling new exploits for twentieth-century mass audiences. The book also considers the previously overlooked roles of anti-spiritualism and presentational performance in silent film.


Highlighting early cinema's relationship to the performing body, visual deception, storytelling, and the occult, Solomon treats cinema and stage magic as overlapping practices that together revise our understanding of the origins of motion pictures and cinematic spectacle.

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About the Author:

Matthew Solomon is an associate professor of cinema studies in the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.



"Along with intriguing insights into the early development of film, Disappearing Tricks is a reminder that magic and movies involve playing with perceptions and making the appearance of reality seem malleable."--ExpressMilwaukee.com


"Students of magic history, film history, the intersection of both, and of Houdini's film career in particular, will all find much to enlarge their insight and understanding of these subjects."--GENII


 "A sharp, sophisticated, and fascinating read."--Magicol


 "Conjuring up an amazing trick of his own with this engaged scholarship, Solomon provides a fresh, fascinating display of theory applied to film history.  This is one of the most succinct, scintillating books of the year.  Essential."--Choice

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780252076978: Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century

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ISBN 10:  0252076974 ISBN 13:  9780252076978
Publisher: University of Illinois Press, 2010