Magic (1978)

R | 106 mins | Horror | 1978

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HISTORY

       A 17 Mar 1976 IFJ brief announced that producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the screen rights to author William Goldman’s Magic (New York, 1976), which was due to be published Sep 1976 by Delacorte Press. Having previously collaborated with Levine on A Bridge Too Far (1977, see entry), Goldman also signed on as screenwriter.
       Magic marked Levine’s first project after leaving Avco Embassy Pictures Corp., the company he had founded years earlier. The 17 Mar 1976 IFJ announced that filming would begin Apr 1976 in Holland; however, the 23 Jul 1976 issue of IFJ stated that principal photography was delayed until Oct 1976 and would take place in NY and Hollywood, CA, with Norman Jewison to direct and co-produce. Jewison was later replaced by A Bridge Too Far director Richard Attenborough, as noted in a 28 Apr 1977 IFJ news item.
       Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert DeNiro were considered for the lead role of “Corky Withers,” as noted in a 24 Oct 1978 Toronto Globe and Mail article. British actor Anthony Hopkins was eventually cast; like Goldman and Attenborough, the actor had collaborated on A Bridge Too Far.
       Principal photography began 9 Jan 1978, according to a 5 Apr 1978 Var item, which also noted that the budget was $10 million. Hopkins alluded to tensions on set between himself and co-star Ann-Margret in the Toronto Globe and Mail, stating that he would never work with the actress again. In an interview with Roderick Mann in the 13 Jun 1978 LAT, ...

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       A 17 Mar 1976 IFJ brief announced that producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the screen rights to author William Goldman’s Magic (New York, 1976), which was due to be published Sep 1976 by Delacorte Press. Having previously collaborated with Levine on A Bridge Too Far (1977, see entry), Goldman also signed on as screenwriter.
       Magic marked Levine’s first project after leaving Avco Embassy Pictures Corp., the company he had founded years earlier. The 17 Mar 1976 IFJ announced that filming would begin Apr 1976 in Holland; however, the 23 Jul 1976 issue of IFJ stated that principal photography was delayed until Oct 1976 and would take place in NY and Hollywood, CA, with Norman Jewison to direct and co-produce. Jewison was later replaced by A Bridge Too Far director Richard Attenborough, as noted in a 28 Apr 1977 IFJ news item.
       Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert DeNiro were considered for the lead role of “Corky Withers,” as noted in a 24 Oct 1978 Toronto Globe and Mail article. British actor Anthony Hopkins was eventually cast; like Goldman and Attenborough, the actor had collaborated on A Bridge Too Far.
       Principal photography began 9 Jan 1978, according to a 5 Apr 1978 Var item, which also noted that the budget was $10 million. Hopkins alluded to tensions on set between himself and co-star Ann-Margret in the Toronto Globe and Mail, stating that he would never work with the actress again. In an interview with Roderick Mann in the 13 Jun 1978 LAT, Hopkins described his relationship with Dennis Alwood, a ventriloquist who trained the actor to manipulate a dummy and throw his voice. Alwood attested to the film’s portrayal of a dummy taking on a life of its own as a real-life problem for ventriloquists, having known at least one performer who was forced to quit after the lines between himself and his doll became too blurred. Hopkins experienced the problem firsthand when he began saying unintended things via “Fats,” the dummy, onset, including a time when Fats yelled “Cut!” after Hopkins flubbed some lines.
       The 28 Apr 1978 IFJ announced that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation had acquired worldwide distribution rights. A domestic release date of Oct 1978 was set, with foreign releases planned for early 1979, but the film’s domestic opening was moved to 8 Nov 1978.
       While the IFJ review criticized the film’s inability to maintain tension, it applauded Attenborough’s direction and many of the performances as well as Jerry Goldsmith’s score. In his 8 Nov 1978 review, NYT’s Vincent Canby held that the film was heavy-handed and the only actor who seemed appropriately cast was Burgess Meredith in the part of talent agent, “Ben Greene.” The 3 Feb 1979 Screen International review deemed the film “strong meat for regular cinema-goers” and stated that it should “pick up the more discriminating who relish good acting.” While acknowledging that the content was not for everyone, the review also praised the performances and Goldsmith’s music.
       Magic won a “Best Motion Picture” Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America association. Anthony Hopkins was nominated for a “Best Actor” Golden Globe award and named a Best Actor nominee by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
       Box-office charts in the 16 Dec 1978 Screen International reported that the film had taken in $100,935 as of its fifth week in release. Despite mixed critical reception, Levine stated in a Jan 1979 Screen International item that he wanted to produce a sequel sometime that year, with “Fats,” the dummy, as the primary figure, but stated that Attenborough or Goldman’s involvement was highly unlikely. No further mention of a sequel could be found as of the writing of this Note.
      End credits include the following statement: “Filmed on location in California, New York, and at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1978
p. 3
Independent Film Journal
17 Mar 1976
p. 19
Independent Film Journal
23 Jul 1976
p. 59
Independent Film Journal
28 Apr 1978
p. 27
Los Angeles Times
13 Jun 1978
Section F, p. 17
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1978
p. 1
New York Times
8 Nov 1978
p. 17
Screen International
4 Feb 1978
p. 4
Screen International
4 Mar 1978
p. 16
Screen International
16 Dec 1978
p. 35
Screen International
3 Feb 1979
p. 19
Screen International
11 Feb 1978
---
Toronto Globe and Mail
24 Oct 1978
Section P, p. 21
Variety
5 Apr 1978
p. 7
Variety
1 Nov 1978
p. 22
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Joseph E. Levine Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Prod mgr, New York prod crew
1st asst dir, New York prod crew
2d asst dir, New York prod crew
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Still photog
Jim Contner
Cam op, New York prod crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Set const co-ord
Prop master, New York prod crew
COSTUMES
Cost
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
Men's cost, New York prod crew
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd boom
Asst sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Sd mixer, New York prod crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Cherie
Hair styles
Make-up artist, New York prod crew
Hair stylist, New York prod crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr consultant
Asst to the dir
Casting
Casting
Consultant ventriloquist
Consultant magician
Consultant magician
Dialect adv
Accent consultant
Scr supv
Prod office co-ord
Loc co-ord, New York prod crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Magic by William Goldman (New York, 1976).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 8 Nov 1978; New York opening: week of 8 Nov 1978
Production Date:
began 9 Jan 1978
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Joseph E. Levine Presents, Inc.
1 March 1979
PA31594
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®; Prints by De Luxe®
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25379
SYNOPSIS

At a nightclub in the Catskill Mountains, young magician Corky Withers fails to impress his audience with tired card tricks. At the suggestion of his dying mentor, Merlin, Corky seeks a new avenue of performance and finds success with ventriloquism. Corky and his dummy, Fats, thrive as a team. Corky is taken on by an agent, Ben Greene, who is anxious to introduce his client to a wider market than the comedy club circuit. One night, Ben invites television executive George Todson to see Corky’s show and introduces the two backstage. Several months later, after Corky has made numerous television appearances, Ben meets him for lunch in New York City and informs the ventriloquist that he and Fats might be the stars of a television show. First, Corky must go to Los Angeles, California, and film a pilot episode. Although initially pleased, Corky becomes agitated when he learns that he must undergo a medical examination prior to filming. Despite Ben's reasonable arguments, Corky refuses to see a doctor, claiming that the stipulation offends his principles. In private, Corky engages Fats in conversation, treating the dummy as if it is a real person with a mind of its own. In order to avoid Ben, who believes that Corky is simply afraid of success, Corky takes Fats to the small town where he grew up near the Catskills in Upstate New York. He rents a cabin on Lake Melody at a small resort run by his high school crush, Peggy Ann Snow. Miserable in her unhappy marriage, Peggy is pleased to be reunited with Corky and charmed by his ventriloquist act. Since her husband, Duke, is out of town, Peggy is ...

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At a nightclub in the Catskill Mountains, young magician Corky Withers fails to impress his audience with tired card tricks. At the suggestion of his dying mentor, Merlin, Corky seeks a new avenue of performance and finds success with ventriloquism. Corky and his dummy, Fats, thrive as a team. Corky is taken on by an agent, Ben Greene, who is anxious to introduce his client to a wider market than the comedy club circuit. One night, Ben invites television executive George Todson to see Corky’s show and introduces the two backstage. Several months later, after Corky has made numerous television appearances, Ben meets him for lunch in New York City and informs the ventriloquist that he and Fats might be the stars of a television show. First, Corky must go to Los Angeles, California, and film a pilot episode. Although initially pleased, Corky becomes agitated when he learns that he must undergo a medical examination prior to filming. Despite Ben's reasonable arguments, Corky refuses to see a doctor, claiming that the stipulation offends his principles. In private, Corky engages Fats in conversation, treating the dummy as if it is a real person with a mind of its own. In order to avoid Ben, who believes that Corky is simply afraid of success, Corky takes Fats to the small town where he grew up near the Catskills in Upstate New York. He rents a cabin on Lake Melody at a small resort run by his high school crush, Peggy Ann Snow. Miserable in her unhappy marriage, Peggy is pleased to be reunited with Corky and charmed by his ventriloquist act. Since her husband, Duke, is out of town, Peggy is free to pursue an affair with Corky and the two quickly fall in love. Corky’s relationship with Fats deteriorates as he grows closer to Peggy. During one of Corky's more heated arguments with Fats, Ben appears at the cabin and observes Corky’s precarious mental state. Ben insists that Corky seek help, but Corky promises that he has been regaining his mental health while on vacation. As a test of his sanity, Ben asks Corky to make Fats stop talking for five minutes. However, after two minutes, Corky loses his willpower and picks up the dummy, allowing Fats to deliver a rambling monologue that frightens Ben. The agent gets up to leave and promises to arrange medical help for Corky. As the old man walks back to his car, Corky pursues him and bashes his head, using Fats as a bludgeon. Following Fats’s directions, Corky then dumps Ben’s body in the lake. The next morning, Peggy’s husband Duke returns home and suspects Peggy and Corky of having an affair. Although Duke intimidates Peggy, she lies, insisting that she never slept with Corky. Duke finds Ben’s Rolls Royce abandoned on the property, and Corky explains that the car belongs to his agent, who must have come looking for him. Corky fakes a telephone conversation with Ben, pretending that the agent hitchhiked to a nearby resort. Later, Duke takes Corky fishing and tries to get him to confess to the affair, but Corky lies, convincing Duke of his innocence. When Duke catches something heavy, Corky panics, thinking it might be Ben’s corpse. Duke finally reels in a log, and Corky is relieved until Duke notices Ben’s body washed up on shore. Corky and Duke examine the corpse, but Corky denies that it belongs to Ben. Suspicious, Duke sneaks into Corky’s cabin and finds blood on one of Fats’s wigs, along with Ben’s wallet. Hiding behind a curtain, Corky operates Fats, luring Duke to the dummy, then stabs him to death. Corky informs Fats of his plans to run away with Peggy and leave the dummy behind. Fats responds that Peggy must die because she is coming between them. Instead of killing Peggy, however, Corky chooses to sever his relationship with Fats permanently by killing himself. Excited to run away, Peggy approaches Corky’s cabin, unaware that Corky has committed suicide.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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