Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Mandrake the Magician: Mandrake in Hollywood" by Lee Falk

"Mandrake the Magician: Mandrake in Hollywood"

Throughout my childhood, I was dedicated to one cartoon strip in the newspaper.   Mandrake the Magician had a natural pull for me, because I think I always was attracted to men who wore tuxedos and a top hat.  The fact that he was a master of illusional tricks as well as having a servant from Africa, appealed to my sense of exotica.   It seems like Fellini was a fan as well.  Nevertheless, I found "Mandrake in Hollywood" at my local library, and one sitting read the book.   It is composed of three separate stories that deals with Madrake's time in Hollywood as a struggling actor of sorts.   Even in 1938, the widespread media at the time looked at Hollywood as a cynical landscape.   The narratives are silly and actually not that important.  What gets my attention, besides re-visiting my childhood, is the character of Mandrake and his man-servant, and a good friend, Lothar.   Day in-and-out, he consistently wears his suit and top hat as he would wear on stage.  The sense of the stage and 'real life' is totally erased - and since it's a comic strip, we are allowed to accept that the wall between reality and fantasy doesn't exist.  To me, there is something beautiful about a personality like Mandrake, who commits illusions, not only for the purpose of entertaining, but also to fight criminal activity.  Mixture of showbiz with crime-fighting.    What more can one want?

- Tosh Berman
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