Leon Mandrake (1911–1993) was an Italian-American born magician, mentalist, illusionist, escapologist, ventriloquist and stunt performer known worldwide as "Mandrake the Magician".
April 11, 1911
Washington State, United States
|Died||January 27, 1993 (age 81) |
He began his magic career in 1922 performing a magic act in vaudeville, in New Westminster, British Columbia. He later joined the Ralph Richards touring Magic show in 1927. In the late 1930s, he toured extensively in the U.S. with his full-evening show, with great success. He was conjurer, illusionist, mentalist, manipulator, ventriloquist and sometimes fire eater. The title character in the comic strip, Mandrake the Magician, was said to be drawn to resemble him. Additionally the comic strip featured a character named Narda, the name of Leon's first wife. He toured Universities in his later career and received a Performing Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood in 1978, along with his wife and partner, Velvet.
Born April 11, 1911 in Washington state, Mandrake was very young when his mother brought him to New Westminster, British Columbia on the West Coast of Canada to live with his aunt Mildred. As a child, he watched magicians at the local Edison Theatre and attended circus shows at the Pacific National Exhibition. He studied the great vaudeville magicians when they came to town. One year he was given the props and costumes of a magician who had left the show. He soon learned to perform magic acts from some of the greats of that time, such as Howard Thurston, Alexander (The Man Who Knows), Chefalo, Doc Verge, Ralph Richards (The Wizard) and Bannister. In 1922, at 11 years old, he began his magic career giving vaudeville performances in New Westminster, British Columbia. He took the stage as one of the vaudeville acts of the Edison Theater in New Westminster. In 1925, at 14 years old, he performed at the Moyer's Carnival for the Pacific National Exhibition. By this time, he learned fire-eating, mind-reading and ventriloquism. In 1927, at 16 years old, he joined the Ralph Richards touring magic show for 6 months, traveling across North America until the tour ended in Winnipeg, Manitoba. By the 1930s, he traveled with his own magic show.
Mandrake, who was known for his top hat, pencil line moustache and scarlet-lined cape, bears a strong resemblance to the comic strip character Mandrake the Magician. Leon Mandrake had been performing for well over ten years before Lee Falk introduced the comic strip character, and a resemblance is evident. Many diverse sources assert that the comic character was drawn to resemble Leon. Davis did meet Leon Mandrake; they became good friends and corresponded for years afterward.
Mandrake performed his last magic show in 1985 for the Chocolate Festival in Victoria, B.C. Canada, ending a 62-year career in show business. He died at Surrey Hospital on January 27, 1993. A wake was held at the old Edison Theater in New Westminster, now the Paramount Theater, the first place Mandrake worked as a child magician.
- Performing Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts (1978)
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