I just have to share this gorgeous MAGIC POSTER. It is so cool. First off, I love the Blue Willow China plates with the Magician's face on them. And today is Chung Ling Soo's birthday.
Here's the story behind the traditional Blue Willow China pattern. It's a great story, but pales next to Chung Ling Soo's story, that ends with his tragic death.
The wonderful vaudeville history blog Travalanche writes about how Chung Ling Soo basically stole his act from another successful magician, Ching Ling Foo, as did several other copy-cats with names like: Tung Pin Soo, Long Talk Sam, Han Pin Chien, Li Ho Chang, Rush Ling Toy, Chin Sun Loo, Chung Ling Sen, Chung Ling Hee, and Chung Ling Fee.
Here's a video narrated by the Boris Karloff that shows more of the magician's posters, and tells the story of his act, his wife, his mistress, and his mysterious death.
The Blue Willow / Chung Ling Soo poster is/was available at postersplease.com, where they write:
" ... "The Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" known as Chung Ling Soo was actually the stage name of an American stage magician: William Ellsworth Robinson (1861-1918), who appropriated his persona-as well as a number of famous tricks-with slight variation from a Chinese magician named Ching Ling Foo (1854-1922).
Robinson maintained his role scrupulously, never speaking onstage and always using an interpreter when he spoke to journalists. Only his friends and other magicians knew the truth.
Soo's most famous trick-primarily because he perished while performing it-was "Condemned to Death by the Boxers," in which his assistants-dressed as boxers-brought two guns to the stage.
After audience members marked a bullet, it was loaded into one of the guns and fired at Soo, who seemed to catch the bullets and drop them onto a plate. In truth, he had palmed the projectilesduring their examination and marking. The muzzle-loaded guns were rigged such that the gunpowder charge fired in the chamber and the bullet would drop into the barrel below, never really leaving the gun.
The trick went tragically wrong at the Wood Green Empire in London on March 23, 1918. Robinson had never cleaned the gun properly and over time, the gap that allowed the bullet to drop slowly clogged with gunpowder residue.
On that fateful night, the bullet remained in the barrel and was fired in the normal way, hitting Soo in the chest. His last words were spoken on stage: "Oh my God. Something's happened. Lower the curtain." It was the first-and last-time in nineteen years that William "Chung Ling Soo" Robinson had spoken English in public. "
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