Mark Wilson, Magician on TV's 'The Magic Land of Allakazam,' Dies at 91

Mark Wilson
Courtesy of Greg Wilson

Mark Wilson and his wife, Nani Darnell

He taught the craft to Cary Grant and Johnny Carson and performed with Glen Campbell in Las Vegas.

Mark Wilson, an influential magician who played a pioneering role in proving that magic could thrive on television, has died. He was 91.

Wilson died Jan. 19 of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, a publicist announced.

From 1960-65, Wilson produced and starred with his wife, Nani Darnell, in the first network TV series of its type, The Magic Land of Allakazam, which ran on Saturday mornings on CBS, ABC and then in syndication and featured Bev Bergeron as Rebo the Clown.

In addition to performing all over the world with his wife and their sons, Greg and Mike, Wilson taught celebrities like Cary Grant, Bill Bixby and Johnny Carson how to employ magic in their work and helped set up tricks for films, TV productions, commercials, amusement parks and live attractions.

A founding member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood, he also authored an instructional book, The Mark Wilson Complete Course in Magic, which has been in print since 1975, and his company operated a warehouse full of magic props and costumes.

"The entire magic world is mourning the passing of legendary magician Mark Wilson," Lance Burton said in a statement. "Through his television appearances and live shows, he has inspired several generations of magicians, myself included. It is safe to say that without Mark Wilson, magic would not be what it is today. Without Mark Wilson, the world would be a far less happy place."

Added Penn & Teller in another statement: "Prior to Wilson, magic on TV was limited to short spots on shows like Ed Sullivan's. Wilson pioneered the idea that there was a wide audience for a television series based on magic."

Born in Manhattan on April 11, 1929, James Mark Wilson spent much of his childhood on the road since his father, Jimmy, was a traveling salesman.

As an 8-year-old, Wilson was staying at a hotel in Indianapolis with his parents where a magician was performing. Captivated by the show, he headed to a nearby bookstore to buy a book of card tricks to try to duplicate what he had just seen.

Wilson studied advertising and marketing and served as head cheerleader at Southern Methodist University, paying his way through college by performing some 50 magic shows a month in the Dallas area. In 1954, he and his wife launched their first TV show, Time for Magic, on a Dallas station.

He had "Three Rules for Magic on TV": do not cut away during a trick (no special effects), make sure there's a live audience and tell home viewers that what they are seeing is exactly what those in the studio audience are seeing.

Wilson later created the popular Hall of Magic pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, produced Magic Circus specials for network TV in the '70s and performed on a bill with Glen Campbell in Las Vegas in 1974. His last TV series, The Magic of Mark Wilson, aired in syndication in the early '80s.

He closed all his performances with the line, "Happy Magic."

In addition to his wife, whom he met on New Year's Eve 1952, and their sons, survivors include three grandchildren.