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Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century Paperback – 25 Mar 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (25 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252076974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252076978
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,246,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"A fascinating enquiry into the early history of film, especially as it involved magicians and magic tricks. Matthew Solomon explores spiritualism and suspension of disbelief in a compelling investigation of the integration of cinema into mainstream entertainment." - Hugh Hudson (Chair), Peter Bradshaw and Sir Christopher Frayling, Judges of the 2011 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards "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 "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 "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 "A truly important and impressive book, the most thoroughly researched and broadly conceived history of the interaction between magicians and cinema that anyone has offered or is likely to offer." - Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity "Employing a "comparative media approach", Solomon's book explores the ways in which "magic and cinema were in fact overlapping sets of practices that renewed, incorporated, and responded to each other historically" (6). The magical new medium of film initially posed a serious threat to magicians, since, "While stage magic always involves concealing the work that goes into a trick (and concealing how the work has been concealed), mechanical tricks ran the risk of effacing the magician altogether, leaving only the illusion" (29). Nevertheless, as Solomon recounts, cinema was quickly incorporated into magic shows as a novel component of the performers' technical armoury, while at the same time, as the commercial potential of cinema became evident, "Magicians took key roles in the emerging industry"." - Bruce Bennett, Scope, Issue 24, October

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By max sexton on 16 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well argued book about the relationship between illusion and realism in early cinema, and a reminder that the narrative cinema that forms the basic history of film is only part of the story. Solomon cites Tom Gunning, another film historian, to begin his argument, and how early film lacked some of the narrative expectations we might expect today. Instead, film relied on spectacle and marvel, although these had the possibility of destroying narrative because of the disrupting effects of special effects. Although, these effects would be contained within particular genres later (one thinks of the fantasy film), there existed in the 1920s a number of films that sought to bring magic and narrative together in other ways not yet fully explored. This appears to be the main achievement of the book as it details the films in which Houdini appeared in, and the contribution these films made to the history of the cinema. The conclusion is interesting and lets the reader understand again some of the complexity of film history. An interesting read, although a bit too academic for the lay reader and more suitable for the existing student of film.
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