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Carl Ballantine

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Carl Ballantine

Cover of Genii (1959)
BornMeyer Kessler
September 27, 1922
Chicago, Illinois
DiedNovember 3, 2009 (age 87)
Hollywood, California
Resting placeCremated, Ashes scattered
Known forcomedy magic
Carl Ballantine (1922-2009), born Meyer Kessler in Chicago, Illinois, was an American actor, magician and comic.


Under the guise of "Ballantine The Great" or "The Amazing Ballantine" and "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician", his trademark involves magic tricks which always flopped in comedic fashion. He is probably best remembered as "Gruber", one of the PT boat sailors in the television series McHale's Navy which aired in the 1960s.

Ballantine performed at the legendary Palace Theatre in New York and in Las Vegas in the 1940s. He later took his act to television, appearing on Garry Moore, Andy Williams, Danny Kaye and Dean Martin shows, as well as "The Hollywood Palace" and "The Tonight Show." He was a regular cast member on the 1969 sitcom "The Queen and I" and the 1980 sitcom "One in a Million." He also made guest appearances on numerous other series, sometimes appearing as a magician as in "Fantasy Island" as the Great Zachariah, on "Night Court" as the Fabulous Falconi and on "The Cosby Show" as the Great Ballantine.

Ballantine appeared in a number of films, including "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1968), "The World's Greatest Lover" (1977), "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992) and "Aimee Semple McPherson" (2006).

He performed his comedy magic act for the last time at the "It's Magic" show at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood in 2008.

Ballantine was the husband of actress Ceil Cabot (8 March 1927 - 24 January 2000) and is the father of actress Sara Ballantine.

Carl Ballantine was the first to have a rubber chicken created for his Vaudeville comedy act.


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  • Cover, Tops Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 1942, BALLANTINE, The Facetious Fakir, page 4
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 32, No. 2, April 1952, His Own Magic Wasn't Enough, by Glenn D. Kittler, page 47
  • Genii Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 10, June 1952, Rotogravure Picture, page 387
  • Cover, M-U-M, Vol. 43, No. 8, June 1952, Mr. Ballantine, magician-of-the-month, by Leslie Guest, page 323
  • Cover, Genii Magazine, Vol. 23, No. 11, July 1959
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 86, No. 5, May 2006, Fantasma Ring #257 Honors Carl Ballantine, by Amadeo Swiss, page 36
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 87, No. 6, June 2007, Carl Ballantine, What's His Next Move?, by Samuel Patrick Smith, page 41
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 89, No. 12, December 2010, The One and Only Carl Ballentine, September 27, 1917 – November 3, 2009, page 56, Broken Wand, CARL BALLANTINE, page 115
  • Genii Magazine, Vol. 73, No. 1, January 2010, In Memoriam, Carl Ballantine, page 14
  • The Magic Circular, Vol. 104, No. 1122, January 2010, Obituaries, Carl Ballantine (Meyer Kessler) MIMC (27 Sept. 1917-3 Nov. 2009), page 4
  • Bio-bibliographisches Lexikon der Zauberkünstler Edition Volker Huber, April 2002, Kessler, Meyer = Carl „Jipper“ Ballantine; Count Marakoff, Carl Sharp, USA Zauberkünstler (*27.09.1917 Chicago), page 183