Back­story1933

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - TIME OUT - MYLES SIN­NA­MON

On July 8, 1933, world-renowned ma­gi­cian Dante gave the first per­for­mance of his Bris­bane sea­son at His Majesty’s Theatre, a poster for which is pic­tured above. Dante (real name Harry Jansen), born in Demark in 1883, had moved with his fam­ily to the United States at the age of six and made his stage de­but at 16. He had pre­vi­ously vis­ited Bris­bane in 1912 un­der the stage name The Great Jansen.

A pro­mo­tional mag­a­zine from His Majesty’s Theatre, in the State Li­brary of Queens­land’s collection, touted Dante’s im­pres­sive feats as well as spruik­ing lo­cal prod­ucts. One such advertisement fea­tured Dante strik­ing a pose, com­plete with hypnotic gaze, and the cap­tion: “Dante rec­om­mends XXXX”.

Among Dante’s many il­lu­sions was “the en­chanted bar­rel”. The Sun­day Mail de­scribed the act, say­ing Dante pro­duced “three dozen glasses and two large pots of beer from an empty bar­rel with tis­sue paper ends”. In mati­nee per­for­mances when chil­dren were present, the beer was sub­sti­tuted with or­ange juice that could be sam­pled. There was also the “Chi­nese wa­ter scene”, where the ma­gi­cian made wa­ter gush in “grace­ful curves” from var­i­ous ob­jects, in­clud­ing his as­sis­tants’ heads and his own hand.

Sadly, Dante’s Bris­bane sea­son would end in per­sonal tragedy. On July 28, his 21-year-old son Wil­liam Jansen was killed when his mo­tor­cy­cle col­lided with a light pole in in­ner-city Gre­gory Ter­race. Fol­low­ing a fu­neral ser­vice at St Peter’s Church in West End, the cas­ket was con­veyed to Mel­bourne by train, to be in­terred at Spring­vale Ceme­tery. The re­main­der of Dante’s per­for­mances at His Majesty’s Theatre were can­celled.

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