Sunday, August 7, 2011

John Calvert turns 100

Magician and actor John Calvert has turned 100 years old. Calvert knew Bess Houdini and Edward Saint when they lived in Hollywood in the 1930s. When Bess saw Calvert's show, she is reported to have said, "Calvert plays the part of a magician better than any actor I have ever seen, except for Harry, of course."

At the time, Bess and Ed Saint were actively trying to set up a Houdini biopic at one of the major studios. Bess sent a letter to Calvert, who had a seven year contract with Columbia, saying, "In my opinion, you are the only actor capable of portraying the life of my late husband, Harry Houdini. Are you interested?"

Calvert was interested. Unfortunately, the head of Columbia, Harry Cohn, was not, complaining that Houdini's story was "lacking in romance and needed a better ending than a punch in the solar plexus."

Calvert would later go on to produce and star in a special "Tribute to Houdini" stage show, which was released on what is now a very collectible VHS. But did Calvert ever meet or see Houdini himself? If so, this would make him possibly the last living link to Houdini (as we lost Dorothy Young in March). Unfortunately, recent interviews with Calvert ask him about Thurston and Blackstone, but not our Harry.

You can hear an interview with John Calvert and watch a video of his 100th birthday celebration at The Magic Newswire.


  1. Incredible! Calvert must be one of if not the last surviving link to the golden age of magic and golden age of Hollywood! How many other people knew Bess Houdini that are still living?

  2. Exactly! When Dorothy Young passed I thought that was it as far as a living link to Houdini, but I forgot about Mr. Calvert!

  3. Is there any way you can interview him to ask if he ever saw a Houdini performance? Would love to hear his first hand account of what he saw and his thoughts about Houdini as a performer based on a eye witness account.

  4. Not sure how to get ahold of him. I've put the word out on the Genii Forums.

  5. Okay, it looks like Dodd Vickers will ask him about Houdini in their upcoming interview.

  6. John and his wife are currently living in Bowling Green, KY.