"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 theatre 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 Melies 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.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Introduction; 1 An Anti-Spiritualist Medium: Stage Magic and the Beginnings of Cinema; 2 The Death of Magic? Presentational Performance and Early Film; 3 Behind the Curtain: Melies at the Theatre Robert-Houdin; 4 Up-to-Date Magic: Theatrical Conjuring and the Trick Film; 5 Houdini's Actuality Magic: Escaping the "Ghost House" with Moving Pictures; 6 Lost in Transition: Sensational Fiction and the Limits of Narrative Integration Epilogue; Notes; Bibliography; Index
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.