Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Features

November 1, 2013

Entertainers' magic began in Franklin County

BROOKVILLE – Lester Lake and John Calvert had tremendous influence on the magic entertainment business, and both were from the small Franklin County town of New Trenton.

However, “when you ask most people in the county if they know anything about them, they say, ‘Who?’” pointed out Julie Schlesselman, Franklin County Public Library District local history and genealogy department manager, during the Oct. 16 Hooked on History program at the Brookville Library.

“They were two very unusual men, but very unique. They may be forgotten names in Franklin County, but in the magic industry they are very well known,” she revealed.

Calvert passed away Sept. 27 at the age of 102 and is survived by his wife of over 30 years. “He enjoyed a career that spanned 80 years and was an actor as well as a magician. He had some of the most elaborate magic shows ever staged .... (and) at the age of 100, he appeared onstage at the London Palladium.”

She announced, “He became interested in magic when his father took him to Cincinnati to see Howard Thurston. He also credits Lester Lake for influencing him .... John and his outgoing personality were noticed at college, where he performed tricks for students.” His big break came when an agent saw his show and offered to pay him $300 a week for 10 weeks.

Calvert “always had lovely ladies in his shows,” including Florence Bogar, a former Miss Philadelphia.

“He also had a movie career beginning in 1941, when he was the hand double for Clark Gable in ‘Honky Tonk,’ when he did the fancy card work .... He was also the technical adviser on ‘The Silver Chalice,’ Paul Newman’s film debut.” He also played Michael Watling, “The Falcon,” in three pictures, “Devil’s Cargo,” “Appointment with Murder” and “Search for Danger.” In those movies, he would perform a little bit of magic.

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