Here is the seminal biography of the magician's magician, Howard Thurston, a man who surpassed Houdini in the eyes of showmen and fans and set the standard fro how stage magic is performed today.
Everyone knows Houdini-but who was Thurston? In this rich, vivid biography of the "greatest magician in the world," celebrated historian of stage magic Jim Steinmeyer captures the career and controversies of the wonder-worker extraordinaire, Howard Thurston.
The public's fickleness over magicians has left Thurston all but forgotten today. Yet Steinmeyer shows how his story is one of the most remarkable in show business. During his life, from 1869 to 1936, Thurston successfully navigated the most dramatic changes in entertainment-from street performances to sideshows to wagon tours through America's still-wild West to stage magic amid the glitter of grand theaters.
Thurston became one of America's most renowned vaudeville stars, boldly performing an act with just a handful of playing cards, and then had the foresight to leave vaudeville, expanding his show into an extravaganza with more than forty tons of apparatusand costumes. His touring production was an American institution for nearly thirty years, and Thurston earned a brand name equal to Ziegfeld or Ringling Brothers.
Steinmeyer explores the stage and psychological rivalry between Thurston and Houdini during the first decades of the twentieth century- a contest that Thurston won. He won with a bigger show, a more successful reputation, and the title of America's greatest magician. In The Last Greatest Magician in the World, Thurston's magic show is revealed as the one that animates our collective memories.
Expanding on his chapters on Howard Thurston in his history of magic, Hiding the Elephant, Steinmeyer produces an engaging full-length biography of the man Orson Welles called the master. While Houdini s daring stunts were legendary, Steinmeyer says Thurston was the public s favorite, captivating audiences with his self-assured grandeur. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Thurston gained fame in the early part of the 20th century with his Rising Card Trick, in which he levitated cards named by audience members. He successfully changed with the times, going from street performances to wagon tours through the West. He then became a top vaudeville star, but wisely left the vaudeville circuit to produce more ambitious spectacles involving 40 tons of magic apparatus and colorful costumes, a variety of animals, and more than two dozen assistants. Tracing the magician s rise to fame, this volume neatly juggles his marriages and his magic with his triumphs, travails, showmanship, and marketing ballyhoo ( The Wonder Show of the Universe ). Steinmeyer recovers, from the shadows of his greatest rival, a figure whose grandiose productions were an American institution for almost 30 years.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I have enjoyed ever book I have read from Steinmeyer with each eager read. His research is fantastic and his voice takes me to a time I have always longed to know. I am a working magician for corporate events, and have a poster of Thurston on my wall, it was nice to finally meet him through this book.
A bit disappointing
I enjoy magic and illusions but I guess my preference is to see them rather than read about it. Great reviews so I expected more. Hard to picture all the illusions described but Thurston surely an unforgettable character...EAF
This is a great story told by a man who knows how to tell a story. Very well done.