Friday, January 16, 2009

The Magician: Bill Bixby

The Magician was an American television series that ran during the 1973–74 season. It starred Bill Bixby as stage illusionist Anthony "Tony" Blake, a playboy philanthropist who used his skills to solve difficult crimes as needed. In the series pilot, the character was instead named Anthony Dorian. The name change was due to a conflict with the name of a real life stage magician.

Bill Bixby, born Wilfred Bailey Bixby, (January 22, 1934 – November 21, 1993) was an American film and television actor, director and frequent game show panelist. His career spanned over three decades, appearing on stage, in motion pictures and starring in five TV series, such as My Favorite Martian and The Incredible Hulk.

In The Magician Bixby's character Blake was a professional stage magician who used his skills to solve crimes and help the helpless. Years earlier, Blake had been unjustly confined in a prison in an unnamed country in South America. He discovered a way to escape with his cellmate, which began his interest in escapology. The cellmate died and left him a fortune. The escape led to a career in stage magic which made him famous. He never forgot his imprisonment, and it motivated him to seek justice for others.

The show is noteworthy in that Bixby insisted on doing all of the magic himself, without any trick photography, although this was not the case in the TV-movie/pilot. He was instructed in these performances by the program's technical adviser, Mark Wilson. Once the format changed to have the hero based in a magic club, Wilson could occasionally be seen on the stage there, as well. In addition to escapes, Bixby performed feats of sleight of hand, mentalism, and stage illusions.

Photo above from the Doug Edwards Collection.

Bill Bixby as Anthony Dorian in the pilot for "The Magician" 1973 TV series. Guest starring Elizabeth Ashley, Signe Hasso and Barry Sullivan: Scene features wine production in a stemmed glass.