The Davenport Collection
- a growing resource on magic and entertainment history

Gilly (George) Davenport

Film of George Davenport and the Razor Blade Trick

Film of George Davenport and the Razor Blade Trick

George Davenport did not invent this trick, but he was the first person to perform it in England. The plot is well known. The magician separately swallows razor blades and thread, after which he produces them from his mouth strung along the thread. This 1930s film was made by the Ideal Sound Cinemagazine.

1938 Malvern Magic Convention Newsreel

1938 Malvern Magic Convention Newsreel

The International Brotherhood of Magicians British Ring held their 8th Annual Convention at Malvern in 1938. This Gaumont British News film was aimed at the cinema-going public. It features an upside-down strait jacket escape by Les Levante and an underwater escape by his daughter Esmé. It uses a breathless tone to capture the excitement of these and other magical happenings. Gus and George Davenport briefly turn up from time to time, most noticeably at the end having fun with the production of two giant bunches of flowers using a double Botania, no doubt on loan from the Davenport stand at the convention.

Fun and magic when Frank Lane visits the Davenports

Fun and magic when Frank Lane visits the Davenports

The American magician and family friend, Frank Lane, often visited the Davenports with his wife Francis. This film from the late 1930s was put together by Frank Lane. Frank and the Davenport family had a well-developed sense of humour, which explains some of the zany antics on the film. The footage includes George (Gilly) Davenport floating a match and Gus Davenport performing some coin magic. Frank doesn’t appear much in the clip: he was either shooting the film or, at the very start of the clip, relaxing in a deck chair being served a drink and cigars by Gus Davenport.

The people in the line-up, in order of appearance, are Wyn Davenport, Francis Lane, Gus Davenport, young Betty, George (Gilly) Davenport, young Jean and Eve Davenport.

In 1983 John Davenport had the opportunity to visit Le Grand David spectacular show in Beverly with Frank and Francis. As was their custom, the company made a huge fuss of the Lanes (see illustration), which they certainly deserved.

Razor Blade Trick

Razor Blade Trick

George Davenport did not invent this trick, but he was the first person to perform it in England. The plot is well known. The magician separately swallows razor blades and thread, after which he produces them from his mouth strung along the thread as shown in the illustration. Complete with instructions.

Tips on performing Soft Soap collected by Norman Rashleigh

Tips on performing Soft Soap collected by Norman Rashleigh

Soft soap was a very popular trick. Dirty handherchiefs are magically washed and come out clean. The audience think they know where the dirty ones are still hidden, but the magician shows them that they have been lead up the garden path. These tips which cover three typewritten pages mention variations, including some which came through Gus and Gilly Davenport. Note the Demon Series trademark printed on the Lux packet.

Gift of a plate from Cliff Townsend

Gift of a plate from Cliff Townsend

British magician Cliff Townsend gave this to John and Anne Davenport in August 1981. On the front of the bone china plate he had stuck the roundel from the cover of The Magic Circular from the June and July, 1959 issue. It shows George Davenport on the right welcoming Dr Harlan Tarbell to the Annual Banquet as the Hon. Editor John Young looks on.

Davenports prototype silk handkerchief

Davenports prototype silk handkerchief

As is often the case, the real interest is in the story which lies behind this item. It was probably in the 1930s that magician Jack Blake was in Davenports and saw this handkerchief at the back of the counter. George Davenport was out at the time and so Mr Blake asked Gus Davenport if he could have a look at it, and what was the price. On being told, he bought it. Later, when George came back, he was furious because the item was a prototype and not for sale. In fact the material was not silk, but a heavier material. Gus didn’t know it was not for sale. We only know of this story because in 1989 Granville Taylor (Faust) bought the cloth from Mr Blake and then, almost a decade later in 1998, Granville presented it to John and Anne Davenport with a message that included: ‘I think it is only fitting that it should be returned to The House of Davenport . . . P.S. Make sure it doesn’t accidently disappear again!’ The story is contained in letters from Granville and Mr Blake which reside in the collection.

Intermittently on the halls

Intermittently on the halls

On 9 February 2012 Anne Goulden gave this talk at the British Music Hall study group in London. It follows Lewis Davenport’s performing career from around 1900 to around 1930 and explains how he juggled his time between his magic business, music hall work, and other performances. On the way it provides an overview of the different types of variety entertainment during the period.

Town Hall, Leamington Spa. 30 June 1934

Town Hall, Leamington Spa. 30 June 1934

The poster advertises the Saturday night evening show of the IBM British Ring convention in 1934. According to the write-up of the show in ‘The Budget’ of July 1934, not all acts appeared. The act billed as Davenport and Company Magic of 1934 was George Davenport.