Georges Méliès often said that he discovered his first signature technique, the substitution splice, as an accident. While filming a horse-drawn omnibus, his camera malfunctioned in the midst of shooting. When the mechanism started up again, a hearse had moved into the frame in the former vehicle's place. Voila! One object becomes another! John Frazer casts doubt on this tale as more than merely apocryphal, suggesting that Méliès must have seen the substitution splice in Thomas Edison's EXECUTION OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS prior to his own filmmaking endeavors. Regardless, THE VANISHING LADY (also known as THE CONJURING OF A WOMAN AT THE THÉÂTRE ROBERT HOUDIN) is the earliest surviving example of Méliès's use of the effect in one of his films. No longer operating the camera as he did for some earlier films, Méliès appears as a magician who places a cloth over the body of a seated woman (his wife Jeanne D'Alcy). After a fairly obvious cut (D'Alcy's dress is a dead giveaway), the cloth is removed and the chair is shown empty. When the magician attempts to bring back his wife without the use of the cloth, he's in for a ghastly surprise. But he has the powers to amend before the end of the film. Finally, both actors exit the set through a doorway and then return as if called back by applause. This last disappearance and reappearance puts into relief the fundamentally but seemingly more "magical" intermittence we've already seen. - Brian Darr
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it really was magic. still is magic.
it's a time capsule
Magic shows were as good 115 years ago as they are today.