Charles W. FricHo Judge of The Superior Court, Los Angeles, California
Irving "Doc" Desfor Columnist for Associated Press Newsfeatures
Special Autographed Edition
Reviewed By Arnold Furst
Published By THE GENII PUBLISHING COMPANY As A Memorial To
W. Larson, Sr.
Arnold Furst - 1957
A Review of His Show at The Biltmore Theatre, Los Angeles, California, October 7, 1941
Since the death of Howard Thurston, Dante has been recognized as the world's greatest magician of our generation. He looked like a magician and he acted like a magician, both on and off the stage. He dominated the scene wherever he went and fulfilled the expectation that his impressive appearance created. "Sim Sala Bim", was more than the title of Dante's show. It was associated with his gesture that he used to as knowledge applause and was adopted from a Danish nursery rhyme. Following the playing of the Overture to Faust by the orchesta, the front curtains parted to reveal another curtain. These curtains were then opened to reveal yet another elaborate front curtain even more beautiful and impressive than the others. Finally Dante entered the stage as the last of the curtains opened and his opera cloak was received by one of his assistants. Ten surprises in 10 seconds is the listing in the program for the opening of Dante's spectacular revue. After showing a large cloth on both sides, a large bowl of goldfish was produced. Another large bowl was produced and then a goose and a flock of small geese. Bowls of flowers were produced on the tops of some sidetables. Using a 째;igantic duck pan which was specially constructed for him, Dante next produced a large duck and then from a foulard came several more ducks. A goat and other livestock were produced. A red silk appeared at the tip of a sword and was in turn fired from the end of a rifle into a small glass casket. Three doves were caught in mid-air by the use of a long handled net.
A sunshade was wrapped in a bamboo mat and some small silk handkerchiefs were put into an opera hat. Suddenly the sunshade cover was removed from the hat and the small silks were shown hanging from the ribs of the sunshade. The sunshade cover and the silk handkerchiefs return to their original places and Dante put the opera hat on his head; the sunshade over his shoulder and lifting the table, it turned into a suitcase which he carried off the stage. The program listed a five second pause and then the show continued with a demonstration of playing card manipulations. Dante was presented with a ^otted plant which was devoid of blooms. The accompanying card challenged Dante to grow roses on the bush. With the aid of a small sprinkling can many rose buds appeared and thev were snipped off by Dante and thrown to various ladies in the audience. The last and most beautiful rose was personally handed to Mom Dante who sat in the first box of the theatre. The audience was in this way introduced to Mrs. Dante who had helped and inspired him during the 51 years of their married life. Using some small garments from a basket of laundry, Dante placed them on an easel and created a rag picture. This was an introduction for his illusion, "Creation of a Woman." Wearing a velvet beret and an artist smock, Dante formed three sticks into a tripod and with the aid of a wig and paper mache head and some dresses created a figure which did a little Dutch dance after being "wound up" with a small handle. The dancing figure
comes to life and exists as the black velvet curtain dropped for a few minutes of exceptional billiard ball manipulations. Dante was particularly adept as a skillful performer in this field of sleight-of-hand. An original routine with a production egg bag preceded the display of digital dexterity and provided much comedy. â€˘ So many magicians who saw this show were delighted with the simplicity of effect in Dante's original illusion of Black and White. Explaining to the audience that his friends had asked him if he could do an illusion on a bare stage, Dante had all the scenery and backdrops lifted and a Chinese boy was wrapped in a black cloth along with a pole which carried the number 1. A girl assistant was wrarmed in a white cloth along with a pole which bore the number 2. When the two cloths were unwrapped the assistants were seen to have changed places. One of the most dramatic effects was shooting a ribbon through a woman. Using a small caliber rifle, the ribbon was wound around the bullet and fired so that it penetrated a picture of a heart and the young lady was imbedded in a huge target placed behind the victim. In keeping abreast of the modern times, Dante presented his illusion called Broadcasting A Woman or Television Outdone. Dante was very proud of the fact that in this illusion he actually caused the same girl to pass from one cabinet to another. The Un-sevilled Barber was one of the highlights of this show as it had so much comedv and dramatic action. The unwilling customer has a giant comb, scissors, razor and a giant pair of pincers used on him, and while Dante is stirring up the lather, the victim places a paper mache head on himself and Dante does the same. The lathering and operation over, the customer gets up and removes his mask. The audience was amazed to find Dante in the barber's chair instead of the original customer. A Barrel of Fun is the inexhaustible barrel and Dante got a lot of laughs from it. With two large hoops, the ends of the barrel were sealed with sheets of paper. He rolled up one lot of excess paper into a ball and then with a majestic gesture drops it on the stage, asking with a look of surprise, "What did you expect, a horse?" A tap was punctured into the paper at the front of the barrel and four large glasses of lager were filled and then over 20 glasses of the beer were distributed to members of the audience. A half pint, a pint and then a large jug were filled and offered to a man from the gallery. Since there was but one chair on the stage, Dante called to George White and asked for another one. No more chairs being available, Dante calmly picked up his own chair ?vnd from it produced a similar chair for his guest. Closing the first half of the show, was Dante's version of the substitution trunk. It was presented with such dash and speed that it was most effective as he used three girls in this transposition effect. Dante opened the second portion of his elaborate revue with a rapid series of bewildering illusions which he grouped together in his program under the heading, The Temple of Mystery. The scenery was all in a most beautiful oriental motif. Crushing A Woman has always been one of my favorite illusions. Two small boxes were shown and two girls in Chinese costume entered them, filling them completely. These boxes with their human contents were raised and a lidless, bottomless box was placed under these boxes. The front of this box was opened and a third girl laid inside the box. The two top boxes were lowered until they touched the body of the girl inside the large box. The front door of the large box was then closed and the two small boxes were lowered completely inside the other box, apparently crushing the body of the attractive victim. The small boxes were raised and the young lady was seen to be unharmed and no worse for the wear for her experience. Following this was another fine illusion, Behind the Scenes with the Magician. The backdrop represented the interior of a large theatre as seen from the stage. The order of things were reversed and Dante stood with his back to us and spoke to the imaginary audience. The assistants set two boxes on a platform and a girl hid behind them. This apparently takes place before the curtain opens for the painted audience. The cover of one box
was lowered behind and in front of half of the girl. This box was removed and shown empty. The girl crawled from behind the second box and entered the box previously shown empty. The second box was also shown empty and the paper covers were placed over the boxes and the boxes were then nested. Instead of the girl, a male assistant jumped out of the box to the complete surprise of the audience Dante's version of the nest of boxes was of especial interest to the magicians present because he used the actual apparatus which had originally belonged to The Great Keller. The Magician's Rehearsal illusion was a baffling series of transpositions between two Modern '"tebinets which eventually confused everyone present, including the magician. The Keller Rope Tie was presented as an introduction to the Cabaret De La Mort or Dante's Haunted House. The. committee from the audience was asked to examine and walk through the cabinet which was shown empty. The curtains to the cabinet were drawn and shadows appeared. The cabinet was shown empty again and then bells and tamborines were rung and thrown about. A pair of white wooden Dutch shoes danced about and then two committeemen sat on white stools in the cabinet. One fellow received a ghostly tap on the head and he in turn pushed the other out of the cabinet. Broad comedy of this sort continued for the intense amusement of the audience. Dante finally ended this routine by placing a large skull over his head and as he removed it, he was seen to be headless. Next followed a cut and restored rope trick using the Soloman Pillars. A most attractive young lady was produced from An Indian Sedan Chair Illusion. A casket was brought on and from it a large silver sphere floated up and about the stage. After this floating ball routine Dante presented the Ashrah Illusion. Thurston and Dante had a patent on their particular method of doing the Ashrah illusion and I think in the minds of most magicians this effect is associated with these two great showmen. After the girl was covered with a sheet, she slowly rose high into the air and remained suspended for a moment while Dante walked forward to the footlights and cautioned the audience as follows, "Quiet please, the young lady is on the air." Next the sheet was whisked away and in that instant the girl was seen to have vanished. According to the program notes, a woman was lost at every performance. From a Jap Box, Dante produced a number of colorful silk handkerchiefs and three lit candles, in a candleabra. Three silks were then vanished and the candles were wrapped in pieces of newspaper. When the pieces of newspaper were torn open, the candles were seen to have vanished and the silks were found in their place. Dante's imitation of a lazy magician followed with his presentation of the Cords of Phantasia. As the grand finale of this tremendous production, Dante produced a girl from a box previously shown empty and after a borrowed handkerchief was tied about her arm the girl was put into another box that was covered with a cloth and the box and girl were raised in the air. Attention was drawn to a box which was suspended from the dome of the theatre the entire evening. A pistol shot and the box containing the girl vanished with its contents. The box in the dome of the theatre was brought to the staee and opened and the same girl with the borrowed handkerchief around her arm appeared. Thus ended a show that toured the world and lives yet and will continue to remain alive as long as there are people on this earth who once had the wonderful experience of entering briefly in this magic world, of illusion and fantasy. Alvin Jansen was the orchestra leader and just about everything else, at one time or another in his father's show. The photographs illustrating this review of "Dante's show were assembled for this memorial issue of GENII by Alvin Jansen and Mom Dante. Durinn- the two weeks between October 7, 1941 and October 21, 1941, my friend Jim Conley and I saw the Dante show almost every nifht and it was only through the helpful assistance of Jim Conley that'this article was written.