David Nixon (magician)
David Porter Nixon
29 December 1919
|Died||1 December 1978 (aged 58)|
Surrey, England, UK
|Occupation||Magician and television presenter|
David Nixon (29 December 1919 – 1 December 1978) was an English magician and television personality. At the height of his career, Nixon was the best-known magician in the UK.
Born in Muswell Hill, London, Nixon attended the Westcliff High School for Boys in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. His father was a lawyer whose hobby was magic and who took Nixon to watch performers such as Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant. One magician who made an early impression on the young boy was Stanley Collins, who had a gentlemanly image which influenced Nixon's later performing style. Nixon started performing magic himself after an aunt bought him an Ernest Sewell Magic Box for Christmas. On leaving school he gained a job with the Henley Telegraph, the in-house magazine of the W. T. Henley Telegraph company, a publication which had been founded by Alfred Hitchcock. In 1938 he joined The Magic Circle. He also became an accomplished double bass player and performed with a local band.
With the advent of the Second World War, Nixon joined ENSA, the organisation that was set up to provide entertainment for British troops. He had been prevented from serving in a front line role as a result of suffering from pneumonia when he was a teenager. In summer 1946, after leaving ENSA, he joined the Fol de Rols, a variety troupe based in Scarborough. He was joined on stage by the actor and comedian Norman Wisdom, who wreaked havoc with his act. The partnership was a roaring success and the two subsequently appeared at the London Casino.
In addition to his magic act, Nixon sang, danced and worked front of house. In 1947 he married a singer named Margaret Burton. The same year he got his first opportunity on television in a show called Café Continental. Nixon's big break came in 1954 when he was invited to be a panelist on the British version of the highly successful television quiz show What's My Line. He presented various series including the British version of Candid Camera, Comedy Bandbox (1962) (later David Nixon's Comedy Bandbox (1966) and was Basil Brush's first partner. His magic shows included Tonight with David Nixon (1969), David Nixon's Magic Box (1970) and The David Nixon Show (1972) as well as "David Nixon's Christmas Magic" (1974) that featured a classic magic trick where Lynsey de Paul appeared to disappear from a glass casket while leaving behind a still warm dress. He also appeared as a panelist on TV and radio game shows, most notably on the UK TV version of What's My Line. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1973 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Magic Circle Headquarters in London. He then famously presented an episode of the programme the following year, in which the subject was the series' regular British host, Eamonn Andrews. A keen chess player, Nixon also presented Checkmate, a Thames Television series teaching the basics of the game.
Alongside his skills as a stage magician, Nixon liked to use television technology for humour and entertainment. In the '70s, when the technology of chroma key became available, he developed a way to interact with a recording of himself apparently on the other side of a mirror. Not only was the conversation perfectly coordinated, he also used sleight-of-hand to appear to pass objects back and forth to himself. These segments became high points of his shows of that period.
With a rich and mellow speaking voice, Nixon was also in demand as a compere and narrator. Alongside this he was a popular choice for pantomimes, which he enjoyed performing in and a favourite part was playing 'Buttons' in Cinderella. One of his most memorable performances was as a narrator in the show Emil and the Detectives, at the Mermaid Theatre, London.
Among Nixon's lesser known activities was his involvement in backing the development and manufacture of the Mellotron and the company Mellotronics. He appeared in a Pathé news reel feature to demonstrate the instrument.
Nixon died of lung cancer in Surrey in 1978. He was a heavy smoker and was first found to have cancer in 1976. He underwent treatment, which appeared to have been successful, but the disease returned a couple of years later and he died just short of his 59th birthday.
Nixon married Margaret Burton in 1947 and they divorced in 1952. Later the same year Nixon married his second wife, Paula Marshall (Pauline E. Youngs), who worked with him in his act. Paula died aged 28 in a car crash in 1956, the year after the birth of their son Nicholas. Nixon remarried in 1961 to Vivienne Nichols, the daughter of the bandleader Eric Robinson. They had a daughter, Mandy (Amanda E Nixon), in 1961.
- The Spider's Web (1960)
- GRO Register of Births: MAR 1920 3a 1125 EDMONTON - David P. Nixon
- GRO Register of Deaths: DEC 1978 17 1052 SURREY SE - David Porter Nixon, DoB = 29 Dec 1919
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