In the ’80s and ’90s, David Copperfield made a name for himself as a dark, brooding, mysterious figure who made the Statue of Liberty disappear, or asked viewers to play along with magic tricks at home. But back in the 1970s, Copperfield had a whole different energy about him that’s much more in line with the variety shows of the day, as you can see in the above video, uploaded to YouTube 34 years after it originally aired. In the 1978 special The Magic of David Copperfield, you can watch the illusionist mug for the camera with the likes of Orson Welles, Bernadette Peters, Carl Ballantine, and more. There are even magical dance numbers! Take an hour out of your lazy Sunday and watch this disco-fueled magic romp, and if you want more, check out the full playlist for the rest of his Magic of David Copperfield specials.
There’s always reason to get excited when a lost archive of magic performances gets uncovered. So much of the history of magic is passed on via word of mouth, and so many routines are reliant on live performances, that any videos uncovered from an era before everyone had cameras in their pocket feels monumental. And so it is with this recent trove of footage discovered by Magicana.
More than 60 films have been added to Magicana’s ‘Screening Room’ archive, all pulled from a collection recorded on 8mm camera during the late 1970s by Canadian collector Larry Thornton.
Most magic collectors are focused on accumulating apparatus, books, posters and ephemera. But in the 1970s, Larry Thornton, of Calgary, Canada set his sights on a different medium. His goal was to create a visual record of magicians who performed on film and television. Before home VCRs made it possible to preserve performances from live television, Larry went out, 8mm camera in hand, and started recording magicians whenever and wherever they would grant him permission.
The result is an extraordinary collection of home movies, meticulously preserved and catalogued—a rich video archive of magic video featuring many well-known performers including Daryl, Paul Harris, Paul Gertner, Johnny Ace Palmer, Abert Goshman and Mike Skinner… to name a few!
The breadth of performances available and the quality of the restoration are both incredible—there’s really not much like it available on the internet. Check out the full collection over at Magicana.