James Mark Wilson is a famous American magician and author. Most people consider him as the first major television magician. In 1954, when television was a relatively new medium for entertainment, Wilson was the very first magician to bring his act to the small screen. Magic magazine has even named him one of the top 10 American magicians of the 20th Century.
Mark was born as the son of a salesman in 1929 and he spent most of his youth travelling with his parents. At an early age of eight, he began to be interested in magic after he saw a magician named Tommy Martin performing at a hotel in Indianapolis which the family was staying in this hotel at the time.
When he was a teenager, his family moved to Dallas, Texas, where Mark improved his knowledge in magic by working for the Douglas Magicland shop as a sales clerk. With time, his skills improved and he began performing magic shows at small functions.
Career in Television
When television started to grow, Mark Wilson launched a show entitled Time for Magic in Dallas in 1955. With the help of his marketing training, Mark made this show a great success by attracting sponsorship from the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company. After this, he expanded to other shows in San Antonio and Houston.
In 1960, the success of his first show led to the birth of his next show – Magic Land of Allakazam, which was aired nationally each Saturday morning on the CBS network and then later on ABC. This show ran for five years and Nani Darnell, his wife, appeared in some 200 illusions.
Some of the key personnel and creative consultants were Bev Bergeron, Bob Towner and John Gaughan, the illusion designer. At CBS, the team grew and included Leo Behnke, Bobby Fenton, Johnny Daniel, Lin Searles and Carl Owen. Searles, Daniel, and Owen created the illusions for the first 39 episodes. In the 1970s, Mark Wilson produced and starred in the Magic Circus television specials. These shows were sponsored by the Pillsbury Company.
In 1972, Mark was awarded the Magician of the Year award by the Hollywood Academy of Magical Arts. Just after taking his illusion show to Las Vegas, Mark published a book entitled Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic. Basically, this book is a standard for beginners in magic and it has sold over 800,000 copies.
In his career, Mark has acted as a magic consultant to several television shows, including The Magician. In 1980, he was invited to travel to China to perform. He was the first western entertainer to perform in this country.
Later in 2008, Nina Darnell was interviewed in the documentary, Women in Boxes. Together with his crew, Mark has assisted in the production of magic in numerous network shows such as Hollywood Palace, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man and Circus of the Stars.
Today, Mark and his longtime assistant and wife, Nani Darnell, continue to educate beginners and professional magicians through several classes held at the Magic Castle. He also teaches the magicians privately through seminars and lectures.