Nancy Henning Interview: Part Three

Gene Kelly Shaking Hands

Can you talk a bit about the $5000 Doug was awarded by the Canadian Arts Council to study magic? Did he discuss that with you at the time?

You know, I don’t really remember hearing anything about that until he got it. He was quite proud of it, because at the time, there had never been any other – magic was not an art form – and it had only been things like ballet and dance and music that had gotten that award before. Nobody – nobody along the lines of illusionists or magic or anything like that had ever – I don’t think had ever applied, no less been awarded that before. So, it was quite a significant feat for him.

After Doug traveled around the US learning his craft, he created the original production of “Spellbound” with Ivan Reitman. From that came “The Magic Show” which ran four years on Broadway. What were your thoughts on the success of that?

I really liked it. I think…the attraction was his enthusiasm… Just his natural enthusiasm and a down-to-Earth…bubbly nature. And I think people just loved to…be entertained in wonder…It’s just like it’s the wonder of seeing the illusions… And it is the enthusiasm and the non-stuffiness and (his) informal nature…I don’t know whether you know or not, but at that time, that was the longest running Broadway show in many, many years.

Doug received more and more attention from “The Magic Show.” The most important of which was producer David Susskind who produced the first “World of Magic” special for NBC. It was in this special that Doug famously escaped from Houdini’s Water Torture Cell. Do you have any strong memories from that time?

Oh, yeah. My first impression was – I was there, number one… The whole family was there. We were all there… And my first impression was just, “Wow, that’s – it’s amazing. That’s my brother!” The being there was one thing, but afterwards, we went to the Magic Castle. The reception was absolutely phenomenal…It was like a standing ovation just walking through the place. And there were TVs everywhere, and the TVs were playing his show non-stop over and over and over again… And everybody, everywhere was just fabulous. And they just – they couldn’t say enough.

Do you have favorite illusions that Doug performed in his various specials that stick out in your mind today?

My favorite illusion now – I picked three, because I couldn’t pick one… The first one that I chose was Metamorphosis with the trunk… And the second one was the torn and restored newspaper. He does that all the time, and I absolutely love it. He does it really well. And the third one was “Bumps in the Night.” There’s several versions of that…

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final part of my interview with Nancy Henning. I’ll be there, will you?

This interview was conducted on October 15, 2017.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow! I’d never heard that Doug went to the Magic Castle after his first World of Magic special. I’ve never even heard anyone at the Castle mention that. But I’m going to ask around now!


    1. Neil McNally says:

      Yeah I had never heard that as well. It’s a great story and it still resonates with Nancy today!


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