John Calvert, a Hollywood illusionist whose magic tricks won him many fans and several film roles, including three movies in the 1940s in which he played the detective known as the Falcon, died Sept. 27 in Lancaster, Calif. He was 102.
The International Brotherhood of Magicians announced his death but did not disclose the cause.
Mr. Calvert impressed many Hollywood personalities with his sleight-of-hand tricks, and he invited some of them — including Cary Grant, Danny Kaye and Gary Cooper — to perform in his stage shows.
His magic shows were often humorous and usually involved sequences such as firing a woman from a cannon and sawing volunteers with a buzz saw. His wife, Tammy, sometimes served as his onstage assistant.
In his heyday in the ’40s and ’50s, Mr. Calvert performed regularly in Hollywood to star-filled audiences. He also brought his acts to Las Vegas and Broadway. Known for his robust physical presence, Mr. Calvert often flew his own airplanes and sailed the world aboard his yacht.
He managed to transfer his stage success to the big screen, appearing in a handful of movies. His most famous role was as the detective Michael Watling, better known as the Falcon, in 1948’s “Devil’s Cargo” and two more movies. (Actors George Sanders and his brother, Tom Conway, appeared in earlier screen incarnations of the Falcon.)
Mr. Calvert also worked as a Hollywood stuntman, and his hands stood in for Clark Gable’s in a card-playing scene in the 1941 movie “Honky Tonk.” As a technical adviser on “The Silver Chalice” in 1954, he taught Jack Palance the tricks of the trade for the role of a magician.
In 1956 he produced, wrote, directed and starred in “Dark Venture,” a low-budget adventure tale about a reporter in Africa.
John Calvert was born in 1911 in New Trenton, Ind. When he was 8, his father took him to see magician Howard Thurston in Cincinnati. The young Calvert was smitten and started performing for friends almost immediately afterward.
His career took off when an agent spotted him during a performance he gave while attending college.
Mr. Calvert remained active well into his later years, traveling the country with his magic acts and entertaining audiences with a mixture of charm and storytelling panache. At 100, he performed at the London Palladium.