The following is a review from Robert Lund in the Conjurer's Magazine, September 1948:
"As a sleight of hand artist, few performers of the full evening show school can match his skill. As the overall show is routined to a fast moving tempo, admirers of sleight magic may be disappointed in his presentation. What little he does, he does with rare excellence. But, its tailored for the layman. High spot of his performance is his mastery of illusion magic. From the Atomic Vanish, Shooting through a Woman, Enchanted Pagota, and Substitution Trunk, its all the work of a great showman-magician. Biased reporting you say? Not at all. Chicago newspaper critic, Meyer Zolotareff, no mincer of mean words, admitted that he is still trying to pull the greatest number of adjectives out of his hat to do justice to the unbelievable artistry of a great master in the art of deception."
What's unusual about his manner of mystifying? Added bits of business. For instance, he climaxes his version of the substitution trunk with a lightening change of clothing from black tails to a white palm beach suit. And it's all in a matter of not more than four seconds! Couple this with a commanding stage presence heightened by a natural flair for the dramatic. "I try to be a showman first; a magician second." Leon declared.
From a 1948 program, Leon Mandrake's routines:
A succession of surprizes: Gloves to doves, enchanting cane, floating in mid air, silks from nowhere, flowers from flames, production of rabbits. "More magic occurred in the opening three or four minutes than one sees in an hour magic show from others." Walter Blaney.
Transposition of a bottle, orange, and bran
Golf Ball manipulations
Birds from another dimension. Flight of the rabbits
A tribute to Howard Thurston - card manipulations.
The Temple of Mogar - floating a woman - this version was done in a night club almost completely surrounded by audience and orchestra.
The Miser's Dream was producing coins and dropping them in a bucket. Later producing coins from the audiences ears and finally nose of one spectator.
The leg tie, where Mandrake's hands would be tied in a sitting position on his lap with the rope under the legs. As an audience member draped his jacket over the hands tied to his legs, Mandrake would instantly reach up and adjust the jacket. When the jacket was quickly removed, Mandrake was tied up in the same manner as in the beginning. This would happen several times and Mandrake would take the spectator's wallet, watch, and whatever in full view of the audience but unknown to the spectator who would be busy examining the ropes. Then Mandrake would remove the rope and reward the volunteer with his own wallet, watch, pen, or glasses. On some occasions, Mandrake would tell the spectator to close his eyes and concentrate on his name, address, or other information as he would read it from his wallet in front of the audience to the amazement of the spectator and the laughter of the audience.
Balloon sculpturing: Mandrake would make a series of large animals (waist high) for gifts for those audience members who assisted him. These were made with very large balloons and it took at least four to make an animal although he did it extremely quickly and with much comedy. (He was the first magician to use these balloons in a magic act circa 1951)
Extra Sensory Perception: Leon and Velvet would do a two person mind reading performance with the audience, where Velvet would enter the audience after Leon was thoroughly blindfolded and he would identify objects, dates, names, and questions given to Velvet. They also did a few routines from Claude Alexander's show.
The Chinese Linking Rings was a favorite of Mandrake's using 8 rings and his own routine. This routine usually ended the first half of the show.
Shooting through a lady: A chosen playing card would be clipped to Velvet's costume as an audience member helped Leon load a steel bullet attached to 3 yards of red ribbon into a rifle barrel. Velvet would step between the gun and a target and on the count of three the bullet would pass through her body and into the target. She would walk away from the target removing the last part of the ribbon from the card in the front of her costume. The card was then returned to the spectator who chose it along with the bullet hole through its center. In night clubs, he always did this effect completely surrounded.
Production of doves and fantail pigeons to fill the stage. Also ducks and rabbits would be produced in great numbers. The Flight of the Rabbits would have two rabbits in a glass case disappear and reappear in a glass case on the other side of the stage. Earlier in theatre shows he did this with female assistants and larger glass cases.
Spirit in the Bottle: Mandrake would make a table float(ala Alexander) and then introduce his spirit, "Katy King". A borrowed hankerchief would be knotted and then placed into a large glass bottle and corked. The hankerchief would dance inside the bottle and then pop the cork from the inside and jump out onto the table. Mandrake would catch the spirit and try to put it back in the bottle. It would later follow his every command jumping in and out of the bottle and fly through a steel ring. It would sit, fly, and dance at command (usually to the music "elephants on parade")
Comedy Hypnotism: volunteers would come on stage and Mandrake would hypnotize them and they would jump from chairs feeling shocked, have their hands or feet glued to the floor, drop his magic wand on command or do everything he asked them to do in reverse. Lots of laughs.
Mandrake's sensational escape from a welded steel barrel - The audience was invited to inspect the barrel in the lobby and bring their own locks and handcuffs.
Black is White Illusion Velvet would be tied in a bag and locked in a trunk and then put in a cabinet. Three seconds later, she would appear and on unlocking the trunk, Mandrake would emerge wearing a white tux from his previous black tux.
Enchanted Pagoda the doll house illusion where swords are thrust through the box and the girl disappears.
Mandrake did an elaborate fire eating display with four rods of fire and blowing fire balls from his mouth.
"One of his best effects was the production of silks by snapping each one to reveal another tied corner to corner with the first. He did this many times and filled the stage with colorful silks: It was one of the best things I ever saw in magic." Dave Price
You can contact the Mandrake family by e mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org