Harry August Jansen

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Harry August Jansen
Harry August Jansen, known as Dante.jpg
Born (1883 -10-03)October 3, 1883
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died June 15, 1955(1955-06-15) (aged 71)
Northridge, California, United States
Cause of death Heart attack
Residence Northridge, California, United States
Occupation Magician
Spouse(s) Edna Herr
Partner(s) Howard Thurston

Harry August Jansen (October 3, 1883 – June 15, 1955[1]) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and settled in the United States. He traveled the world as a professional magician under the name Dante the Magician.[2][3]


He was born on October 3, 1883 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Jansen came to St. Paul, Minnesota at the age of 6 with his family.[4]

At the age of 16 Jansen made his stage debut under Charles Wagner.[5] 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 show. Thurston gave Jansen the stage name of Dante.[6][7] The name came from the original Dante, Oscar Eliason (1869–1899),[8] who had been killed in a tragic hunting accident in Australia years earlier.[9] In 1925, Dante the Magician Inc. came into being with Thurston as co-owner.[10] The 2nd unit Thurston show was built and co-produced by Jansen.

Dante was known throughout the world under the name Dante the Magician, working in vaudeville, burlesque, legitimate theatre, films, and in later years, television.[11] Dante and his troupe, consisting of between 25 and 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"[12] (taken from the lyrics of a Danish children's song[13][14][15][16]), during his performances to acknowledge applause.[17] He can be seen using these words in the Swedish 1931 feature Dantes mysterier[18] (Dante's Mysteries[19]) and in the 1942 Laurel and Hardy comedy A-Haunting We Will Go.[20]

He also appeared as himself in the 1950 film Bunco Squad, and played a character role in Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach (1952).

In 1940 he produced and starred the Broadway[21] revue Sim Sala Bim[22] on the Morosco Theatre.[23][24][25] With television, the public stayed home more often, and the world of variety theatre suffered drastically.[26] As a result, Dante retired to Southern California in the late 1940s.

He died at his ranch in Northridge, California, of a heart attack, at the age of 71.[2][3] He was alone at the time of his death.


With Dante's death, what historically has 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 lineage created by the American public had elevated magicians Alexander Herrmann, Harry Kellar, Thurston and Dante to the position of the #1 magician in the country.

Shortly before Dante's death, he approached a young magician, Lee Grabel, to be his successor in the lineage of great magicians.[27] Plans were underway at the time of Dante's death. However, because Dante died before making a public announcement, some magical historians believe the lineage ended with Dante. This magician has since chosen a Las Vegas headliner magician, Lance Burton to be his successor, therefore carrying on the tradition of the magical lineage to another generation. Despite this, its authenticity is still questioned by some.

In 1991, magic historian Phil Temple published the definitive biography of Dante the Magician, Dante - The Devil Himself, based largely on Dante's personal records, and Temple's friendship with surviving family members who had toured with the show decades earlier.

Years later, 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. His book, Trouping with Dante, was published in 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Evelyn Mack Truitt (July 1977). Who was who on screen. Bowker. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-8352-0914-4. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Dante, 'King of Magicians,' Dies at Home". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1955. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 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. Wed 50 Years ... 
  3. ^ a b "Harry Jansen, Protege of Thurston Dies. Veteran Entertainer Used Stage Name of Dante". New York Times. June 18, 1955. Retrieved 2009-02-10. Harry A. (Dante the Magician) Jansen died yesterday of a heart attack at his ranch in near-by Northridge. His age was 71. Mr. Jansen, a veteran of ... 
  4. ^ Milbourne Christopher (23 September 1991). Magic: A Picture History. Courier Dover Publications. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-486-26373-1. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  5. ^ David Price (1985). Magic: a pictorial history of conjurers in the theater. Cornwall Books. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-8453-4738-6. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Adrian Room (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins. McFarland. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7864-4373-4. Retrieved 1 October 2010. A name that alludes to the performer's nationality (and also surname) while evoking the famous Italian poet. Jansen assumed the name in 1923 on the suggestion of US conjuror Howard Thurston 
  7. ^ M. Thomas Inge (1989). Handbook of American popular culture. Greenwood Press. p. 680. ISBN 978-0-313-25406-2. Retrieved 1 October 2010. Thurston's first road company was headed by Danish-born Harry August Jansen, on whom Thurston bestowed the stage name "Dante". 
  8. ^ "OSCAR ELIASON - After Dante:". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-10-02. The Great Jansen's success had already reached the stage where there were no less than three Jansens falsely using the name of Jansen, as well as his printing, and exploiting themselves to Managers with their wares of inferior quality. Mr. Thurston had knowledge of this and within the next few days, when negotiations were completed, pointed out this fact and expressed his liking for the name DANTE, and further said that he himself would have adopted it in 1906 it had it not been almost simultaneous with the death of Oscar Eliason who was accidentally shot in New South Wales, Australia, after having gained a reputation under the name of DANTE the Magician. However more than fifteen years had now elapsed and no one had perpetuated the name of Dante as a Magician, so Mr. Thurston as well as the Great Jansen thought this the opportune time and the logical title for the coming Master of Magic to be. Hence Dante the Magician Inc. came into being with Howard Thurston as the owner of the title. 
  9. ^ David Price (May 1985). Magic: a pictorial history of conjurers in the theater. Cornwall Books. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-8453-4738-6. Retrieved 1 October 2010. When it came to a new name for Jansen, Thurston remembered visiting the grave of Oscar Eliason in Australia. 
  10. ^ Briton Hadden; Henry Robinson Luce (July 1, 1940). "Time". Time Inc. p. 41. Retrieved 1 October 2010. Besides operating a show of his own, Jansen at one time ran a magic shop in Chicago. Eventually Jansen helped Thurston produce his shows. Shortly thereafter, Thurston and Jansen formed a corporation named Dante the Magician Inc. 
  11. ^ Evelyn Mack Truitt (1974). Who was who on screen. R. R. Bowker Co. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-8352-0719-5. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Craig Conley (1 October 2008). Magic Words: A Dictionary. Weiser. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-57863-434-7. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (28 August 1943). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 18. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 1 October 2010. The name Sim Sala Bim, taken from an old Danish song, was given to the show in 1922 ... 
  14. ^ "YouTube - Højt På En Gren En Krage - Danish Children's song". Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  15. ^ "YouTube - KRAUKA - Højt på en gren en krage (2010)". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  16. ^ "YouTube - Hoejt paa en gren en Krage". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  17. ^ New York theatre critics' reviews. Critics' Theatre Reviews, inc. 1940. p. 249. Retrieved 1 October 2010. "Sim Sala Bim" according to Dante, the Magician, means a thousand thanks to you 
  18. ^ "Dantes mysterier (1931) - IMDb". Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  19. ^ "YouTube - Dante's Mysteries". Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  20. ^ American Film Institute (1971). The American Film Institute catalog of motion pictures produced in the United States. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-520-21521-4. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  21. ^ "Sim Sala Bim / IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information:". Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  22. ^ "YouTube - Dante - Sim Sala Bim". 1940-09-09. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  23. ^ Burns Mantle; John Arthur Chapman; Garrison P. Sherwood; Louis Kronenberger (1941). Burns Mantle Yearbook. Dodd, Mead. p. 378. Retrieved 2 October 2010. Produced by Harry A. Jansen (Dante) at the Morosco Theatre, New York, September 9, 1940. The cast of characters headed by the magician Dante and his assistant, Moi-Yo Miller, included 35 performers in a program consisting of ... 
  24. ^ New York theatre critics' reviews. Critics' Theatre Reviews, inc. 1940. p. 284. Retrieved 1 October 2010. Like most revues, "Sim Sala Bim", which opened last night at the Morosco, ... Altogether, "Sim Sala Bim" provides one of the merriest entertainments ... He used to be in vaudeville as the Great Jansen, and then fifteen years ago, ... 
  25. ^ Time Inc (14 October 1940). LIFE. Time Inc. p. 116. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 1 October 2010. ... is a Dane named Harry Jansen. His big magic show called Sim Sala Bim will soon go on tour, a-flutter with pigeons, ducks and vanishing girls. 
  26. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (21 August 1943). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 22. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  27. ^ Psy D Ph D James Charles Bouffard (6 March 2008). The Magician's Fight!. Lulu.com. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-615-19358-8. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 

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