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You may have seen this trick before: The world of movie magicians By Richard Crouse Metro Canada In Focus March 13, 2013

Houdini-vs-the-robotThis weekend a cast of Hollywood A-listers are going to try and do something magical. Literally.

In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi play down-and-out Las Vegas magicians, up-staged by hotshot Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). Adding more star power is Alan Arkin as a retired magician who still has a card or two up his sleeve.

With an advertising tagline like Abracatastic! you can expect lots of illusions, but Burt Wonderstone isn’t the first movie magician to pull a rabbit out of his hat on screen.

In Death Defying Acts Guy Pearce plays the best-known magician of all time — Harry Houdini. Set in 1926, 13 years after his mother’s death, the movie introduces him to a Scottish psychic and her daughter, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Saoirse Ronan, who try and con him into believing they can contact Mrs. Houdini from beyond the grave.

Houdini has been played by everyone from author Norman Mailer and Harvey Keitel to Tony Curtis and Emile Hirsch, but it’s also possible to catch a glimpse of the real deal. The prestidigitator began filming his magic act as early as 1906 and went on to star in a series of films with titles like The Master Mystery and Terror Island, all of which are available on the DVD set Houdini: The Movie Star.

Taking their lead from Houdini, Penn and Teller starred in Penn & Teller Get Killed, a 1989 black comedy featuring a classic sequence of Teller catching pigeons in the park with his bare hands.

Audiences could pick one of two magic movies from the deck in 2006.

First, The Prestige saw Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman abracadabra their way through this Christopher Nolan-directed film about tragic results of a rivalry between two 19th century stage magicians. Fans of the movie will notice the main characters’ initials spell ABRA — Alfred Borden Robert Angier — short for Abracadabra!

Released the same year, The Illusionist starred Edward Norton as a magician who uses his magical skills to win the love of Duchess Sophie (Jessica Biel). Norton’s character is loosely based on Erik Jan Hanussen, a magician and clairvoyant who was killed by Nazis in 1933 after a long and successful sage career.

The Mad Magician isn’t notable just because it starred Vincent Price as the murderous Gallico the Great. It’s best remembered as the first movie to be shown in 3D on television.

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