A modified version of the star's earlier show, "The Dunninger Show", after it moved to a new network. Magician Joseph Dunninger, known simply as Dunnigner on stage, earned a reputation in ... See full summary »
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1967   1956  

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Joseph Dunninger ...
 Himself - Host / ... 4 episodes, 1956-1967
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A modified version of the star's earlier show, "The Dunninger Show", after it moved to a new network. Magician Joseph Dunninger, known simply as Dunnigner on stage, earned a reputation in the 1950's as a mentalist and mind-reader of note. In this weekly program, he would invite a new celebrity guest (along with several members of the audience) on stage for each show and let them test him as he put on his unique performance of his supposed psychic powers. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

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25 June 1955 (USA)  »

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The duck on the deck has occurred on a card.
5 November 2005 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

Joseph Dunninger (alias "The Amazing Dunninger") was a magician whose speciality was low-key tricks, performed with a pack of cards or other simple props. No elaborate pyrotechnics for our Dunninger. His tricks generally relied upon audience participation: a volunteer would be encouraged to come onstage and pick a card, or something similar, and then Dunninger would produce some amazing result from this.

Dunninger claimed to be a mentalist: that is, he used his alleged powers of extrasensory perception in order to predict the volunteer's actions and to read the volunteer's thoughts. Round about 1960, as audiences became more hostile towards 'mentalists' who claimed genuine psychic ability, Dunninger suavely admitted that all of his tricks were actually conjurors' illusions, but he refused to reveal how they were done. He offered an explanation which I've quoted in other contexts: 'Any infant could do it with fifty years' practice.'

Dunninger was popular here in Britain. Allegedly, Dunninger performed his most amazing trick during World War Two in a private performance for Winston Churchill. Dunninger gave Churchill an ordinary pack of cards, face down. Dunninger instructed Churchill to sort the cards into two piles -- one black, one red -- *without* turning them over: by concentrating on each face-down card, one at a time, trying to guess its colour and then placing it in either the red or the black pile. When Churchill was finished, Dunninger turned over the cards: astoundingly, one pile contained all 26 red cards, the other all 26 black cards! Allegedly, Dunninger used his powers of precognition to foresee which cards Churchill would place in which stack, and he pre-arranged the pack accordingly. Well, that was his official explanation.

I remember Dunninger's syndicated television programme, when a few episodes were aired in Britain. It was an extremely low-budget affair. Being a jaded and cynical youth at the time, I blithely assumed that all of Dunninger's tricks depended on either (1) trick camera work, or (2) 'plants' in the audience, who selected predetermined cards. Now that I know a bit more about stage magic, I'd like to see these episodes again.

I do recall, fondly, that Dunninger made up for his skint production budget by using stage effects that gloried in their own cheapness. In one episode, Dunninger asked a member of the audience to choose one card from a pack, show it to the audience and the camera (but not to Dunninger) and then to spread out the whole pack randomly across a tabletop, face-down. Dunninger then produced a clockwork toy duck, and with great ceremony he proceeded to wind up the duck (while he wound up the audience). He then placed the duck on top of the deck. The duck proceeded to quack ludicrously while it wobbled in random directions across the tabletop. When the duck's clockwork finally wound down, the duck pitched forward, its bill touching one face-down card apparently at random. Dunninger challenged his volunteer to pick up this card and turn it over. It was, of course, the card originally chosen.

I enjoyed Dunninger's low-key effects, which in some ways are more impressive than the elaborate stunts of Blaine and Copperfield. I would gladly watch this series again in repeats.


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