John Calvert (b. 1911-2013)
John Calvert's Real Name
Madren Elbern Calvert
Place of Birth
New Trenton, Indiana, USA
Calvert possesses the ability of masterful manual dexterity, supreme showmanship, and the execution of lavish and profound stage illusions.
In the 1940's Calvert got his big break in Hollywood as Clark Gable’s hand double, performing sleight of hand movements Gable was unable to learn for "Honky Tonk." The film lead to a contract with Columbia where he acted in and directed many films.
John Calvert was born, Madren Elbern Calvert on August 5, 1911, in New Trenton, Indiana.
He became mesmerized with magic at the age of eight when his father took him to see the magician Howard Thurston perform in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Shortly afterward, he performed his first trick for his Sunday school class - he made an egg appear from under another boy’s coat.
He made his initial magic tour when he was eighteen, performing in town halls in Kentucky backroad towns. His small troupe consisted of one assistant and "Gyp the Wonder Dog." He returned home with a $2.65 profit.
Through the depression years and into the 1940s, he continually increased the size of his magic show, adding illusions and personnel, and he gained notoriety by performing daredevil stunts for publicity.
From the mid-1940s through the late 1950s, he performed in approximately forty films, including starring roles in three Film Classic releases, in which he portrayed a debonair detective known as "The Falcon."
Calvert continued performing magic during his Hollywood days. In the mid-1940s, he transported his show’s equipment and personnel worldwide in a Douglas DC-3 airliner.
Eventually he would purchase a yacht from Henry Ford that was built for Ford’s son Edsel. Calvert sailed the 100 foot vessell to Hawaii, Japan, Singapore, the Phillipines and Australia.
His stage show opened with a fast routine of many tricks he calls “variety magic” for about three minutes.
This was followed by shooting a woman out of a cannon into a space capsule and cutting a man’s head of with a buzz saw. Calvert says he was the originator of sawing off heads with a buzz saw.
In the Hollywood years, it was Danny Kaye’s head he sawed. The comedian would come out dressed as Hitler and crew dressed as marines would grab him and put him in the buzz saw, then put his head in a sausage grinder producing German Wieners.
Another signature trick he says he originated is having his wife since 1982, Tammy, play an organ as they float above the stage and then the audience.
Tammy joined Calvert some fifty years ago in Singapore and immediately joined the act, shortly afterward, the two married.
His most memorable times during the period as when he directed Paul Newman in his first film, starring opposite John Carradine in his last film and all the good times cohosting parties with his next door neighbor, Errol Flynn.
Calvert’s biographer, William V. Rauscher refers to him as “a real life Indiana Jones” because of the dangers he has survived in his travels.
He’s survived hurricanes and attacks at sea and also performed in Nashville the same evening he crash landed his plane.
Calvert was invited to perform his magic act both on Broadway in New York City and at the London Palladium Theatre on his 100th birthday. On September 27, 2013 Mr. Calvert passed away at the ripe age of 102.
He was the subject of a biographical documentary entitled John Calvert – His Magic and Adventures.
Sources of information, courtesy of Wikipedia, The Amplifier
Photo, courtesy of David Linsell
For more information, visit
John Calvert's official website.
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