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Michael Lauck is a columnist for iTricks. His work appears on Mondays.

Over the past 60 or so years, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of magic performances on American television.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these performances have been lost. However, if you know where to look, many are available on DVD.

Magicians have been performing on television way since the experimental days of the medium. In the earliest days, there was no way to record televised performances except to set up a separate film camera. This was rarely done for a number of reasons, including the cramped conditions of many early studios and the additional expense (after all, experimental television stations did not make money). After World War II, when commercial broadcasting got its start in the United States, a system called kinescope was used to record programming for distribution or repeat performances. It used film, but recorded from a studio monitor instead of the live performance. Practical videotape was introduced in 1956. It offered many advantages to studios but the tape was extremely expensive so many of the tapes were erased and reused. Many kinescopes and videotapes were also simply discarded when storage became an issue. The BBC famously threw away decades of programming and the vast majority of DuMont programming was actually dumped into the ocean when the network folded.

Even though thousands of hours of programming has been lost or was simply never recorded, there are still many vintage performances available on DVD. There are online clips and new streaming sources, such as Be Amazed TV, too, but in this article the focus will be magic on DVD. We will also concentrate on television performances as well, even though there are a few films available on DVD with magic performances.

For many people, early magic television means Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell. They are often incorrectly credited as having the first magic series on American television with their Time For Magic show out of Dallas. Even though they were not first, Mark and Nani were incredibly influential on several generations of magicians and magic fans thanks to their national program The Magical Land of Allakazam, which premiered on CBS in late 1960. Even after they no longer had their own series the Wilsons starred in a number of primetime specials.

Mark Wilson makes many of his shows available on DVD through his website MarkWilsonMagic.com. Of the 98 episodes of The Magical World of Allakazam, 41 are now available on DVD with the Wilsons promising the remainder of the series in the near future. On their site you will also find edited version of their six Magic Circus specials (the circus acts have been removed, leaving only the magic of Mark, Nani and many guest magicians). Finally, the two specials that featured Mark and Nani performing in China have been collected on a single DVD. Another interesting DVD offered on the site is their complete 1964 New York World’s Fair act (although it was, to the best of our knowledge, never actually televised).

For even earlier magic performances, one can turn to The Miracle Factory. They offer a three DVD set called Early TV Magic: Pioneer Magician In Rare Broadcasts which is a treasure trove of vintage television magic. A great deal of the collection is focused on Blackstone Sr., with everything from commercials to appearances with Edward R. Murrow included. There are also several episodes of Gerrie Larson’s Magic Lady program, The Great Merlini pilot (one of two television productions based on Rawson’s character, this one starred Jerome Thor and the other Chester Morris), the Mandrake pilot with Coe Norton and more. They also offer a 60 minute compilation of performances from the 1955 series It’s Magic. Al Flosso, Kuda Bux and Roy Benson are just a few of the greats found on the program. They also offer collections of Milbourne Christopher’s specials, magic from You Asked For It and more. They can be found at MiracleFactory.net.

Dozens of magicians appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show over the years, but very few can be found on DVD. Luckily, there is a DVD available from EdSullivan.com that collects 52 minutes of magic performances. The Ed Sullivan Show Presents: Amazing Stars of Magic is probably the most affordably priced DVD of vintage magic available (it lists at less than $15) and includes Richiardi, Kalanag and Fantasio. Another magical performance is available on any of the several DVD sets that features the entire episode with the first American appearance of the Beatles because Fred Keats had the misfortune to follow them!

Finally, there are a few magic performances that can be found in the Johnny Carson episodes that have been released on DVD. Most Carson offerings are clip collections and most of the theme collections feature comedians, celebrity interviews or Carson’s skits. However, the October 28, 1981 episode is available for purchase on DVD on its own or on the King of Late Night Volume 10. It features the first nationally televised performance of a young magician named Lance Burton. Johnny Carson: The Vault Series Volume 2 also features magician Jonathan Brown from 1984 and an earlier appearance is featured on The King of Late Night Volume 10. There are scores of other magical performances in the Carson archives, but no other DVDs currently available seem to feature magic.

Many other memorable magic television performances definitely exist, but are not currently available on DVD. Doug Henning’s appearance on The Muppet Show, for example, has yet to be released (only three of the show’s five seasons are available on DVD). There are also many more performances from Johnny Carson’s tenure on The Tonight Show, as well as other talk shows such as Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore. There were also many locally produced magic shows.