The Larry Thornton Collection
Most magic collectors are focused on accumulating apparatus, books, posters and ephemera. But in the Seventies, Larry Thornton, of Calgary, Canada set his sights on a different medium. His goal was to create a visual record of magicians who performed on film and television. Before home VCRs made it possible to preserve performances from live television, Larry went out, 8mm camera in hand, and started recording magicians whenever and wherever they would grant him permission.
The result is an extraordinary collection of home movies, meticulously preserved and catalogued—a rich video archive of magic video featuring many well-known performers including, Daryl, Michael Skinner, Paul Harris, Paul Gertner, Albert Goshman, Jerry Andrus, Jack McMillen and Johnny Ace Palmer to name just a few! Here’s a Movie Magic playlist to jump start your blast to the past. Alternatively, here is another wonderfully curated list by Jamy Ian Swiss in his article Take Two #51: Movie Magic.
This collection includes performances from 1976 to 1981. Larry set the scene where performers gave private performances for small audiences or directly to the camera in hotel rooms at magic conventions and other gatherings. Some of the convention stage acts were also preserved. Through 2016 and 2017, these reels were digitized and prepared for our online video archive, The Screening Room.
We made Larry’s acquaintance while collaborating with Dale and Lynda Harney on the Magic Palace exhibition. We discovered Larry not only had immaculate copies of the Magic Palace television shows, but that he also had an immense stockpile of 8mm reels of his own making. He generously agreed to share this treasure with Magicana for viewing in The Screening Room.
We are thrilled to share this material with a wider audience as a free online resource for research, entertainment, nostalgia and—most importantly—sharing wonder.