Dante, master of illusions and billed for years as King of Magicians, He and his troupe of 25 to 40 performers made several global trips and appeared in nearly every large theater in this country at one time or another. A native of Denmark, Dante's real name was Harry A. Jansen. He came to the United States at the age of 6 with his parents. Through the years Dante performed in every form of the theatrical business under canvas, touring the Chautauqua circuit, vaudeville, burlesque, movies, radio and in later years television.
Dante (Harry August Jansen)
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Harry August Jansen AKA Dante the Magician (1883-1955), was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and settled in Chicago, United States. He travelled the world as a professional magician.
Jansen came to the United States at the age of 6 with his parents. At the age of 16 Jansen made his stage debut under Charles Wagner. He then set off on a world tour for 5 years as the "Great Jansen". In 1922, magician Howard Thurston, realizing Jansen's talent and possible competition to him, engaged Jansen to star in the #2 Thurston company. Thurston gave Jansen the stage name of Dante (quite possible after the original "Dante," Oscar Eliason who had been killed in a tragic hunting accident years earlier in Australia years earlier. In 1925, Dante the Magician Inc. came into being with Thurston, as co-owner. The 2nd unit Thurston show was built and co-produced by Jansen.
Dante was known throughout the world, working in vaudeville, burlesque, legitimate theatre, films, and in later years, television. Dante and his troupe, consisting of between 25 to 40 performers, made several global trips and appeared in many U.S. theaters. His stage trademark was to utter three nonsense words: Sim Sala Bim, (reportedly taken from the lyrics of a Danish nursery rhyme) during his performances to acknowledge applause.
With television, the public stayed home more often, and the world of variety theatre suffered drastically. As a result, Dante retired to his Southern California in the late 1940s. He died at his Northridge ranch of a heart attack at the age of 71. He was alone at the time of his death.
With Dante's death, what historically had been known as the "Golden Age of Magic" came to an end. Gone were the variety theaters of the world, and with it were the large traveling magic productions that had thrilled and mystified millions for generations. In prior decades, the magical linage created by the American public had elevated Herrmann, Kellar, Thurston, Blackstone, Sr., and Dante to the position as the #1 magician in the country. With Dante's death that lineage ended. He had not publicly named a "successor" - there was nothing to succeed at the time of his death. 25 years after Dante's death one pretender to the title stated he did not publicly claimed to be Dante's "successor" because, "At the time, Dante's name was of no box office value." Dante has no "successor."
A memoir about life on the road with the Dante show was written by Marion Trikosko, who spent two years with Dante as an assistant. Trikosko went on to a successful career as a photo journalist after serving in World War II. His book, Trouping with Dante, was published in 2005.