A Magician named Fu Manchu

14 November 2004

Fu Manchu, the magician, was born in England in 1904 and became interested in Magic while still a child. He had been a magician for some years and debuted as "Fu Manchu" in Buenos Aires on March 1, 1929 at the old San Martin theater. He later became popular in Mexico and made six movies there. He died in 1974.

How He Got the Name

   "As a boy in Brooklyn, his best friend was Herman Schmidt, a lad of German origin.
   Herman [and] David, along with several other boys who were the terror of Flatbush Avenue, were fascinated by the mysteries written by Sir Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Sax Romer [sic], and others. David was especially taken up with the character created by Sax Romer named Fu Manchu, The Devil Doctor, an evil sinister Chinaman who would not hesitate to commit any crime to obtain world power. As is well known, the story line involves Fu Manchu being hunted by Scotland Yard Inspector Nayland Smith. David liked the name because it was different from other Chinese magicians, so when he built his own Oriental show he chose that name.
   It did have some drawbacks, because the legal successors of Sax Romer had the copyright not only to the writings of this author, but also the name Fu Manchu. For this reason he could not use the name in England or the British Empire. Later on, to make things worse, Paramount Pictures bought the rights so David could not use the name in the United States either. He had to drop the 'Fu' and just use the second part 'Manchu'."  (Illusion Builder to Fu-Manchu, 18)


Fu Manchu "Dancing Girls" and  Fu Manchu "Portrait with Dragon"
19" x 26.25" and 39" x 55"

Both are circa 1935

Lithographer: Sisto/Lemme

"The eyes are faster than the hands, the brain is even faster than the eyes. that's why you have to attack the brain. Magic is then, surprise, before everything surprise." FU-MANCHU

Fu-Manchu was the last link of the Bamberg dynasty. He was born in England in 1904 and he started with Magic since he was a child. By his father's side, OKITO, he learnt all the secrets of illusionism and during his youth he was a dexter performer of hand shadows, virtue that he kept until his later days. His first magic name was SYKO, and with it he travelled all around the world also in company of RAYMOND the Great and Zanzig. Finally, during his stay in Argentina he decided to work by himself and have his own show. It is there, in South America, where Fu-Manchu has his greatest success. He makes his debut in Buenos Aires March 1st 1929 at the old San Martin theater. Then, he travels all around Argentina and visits some of its neighboring countries. When his show is at its peak he decides to go to Europe. In Spain he obtains excellents critcs. His tour continues around other European countries and also includes Africa.

When he goes to Mexico he becomes one of the best known characters of this country. Although his career included traveling all around the world it is doubtless in South America where he achieved his master pieces. His shows where full of humor and illusionism, taking particular care in the stage decoration. Perhaps his most famous act was the one called BAZAR DE MAGIA. This was conceived as an old magic shop's parody called Bazar Yankee. At that place happened many different quick effects. Fu played the part of the magic dealer in front of a customer who asked for several tricks, which he could certainly see but was not allowed to buy. Among the different actors that played the part of the customer it is important to name Michalet, the comic acrobat Freddy Romero and the spanish magician Roden. Many well known magicians took part in his Bazar de Magia act during their stay in Buenos Aires, among them Sam Horowitz and Milbourne Christopher can be mentioned. In the forties Fu-Manchu performed six films in Mexico, only in the first three ones he appears making magic tricks. Although this films had a certain success, the last ones made him give up the big screen. The mexican critics where not very favourable with his last films. David Bamberg retired from the stage during the mid-sixties. He devoted his last days to teaching his wide Magic experience and he did it at the Magician's club whose president was Fu himself. There, all the Argentinean magicians were gathered and some from other countries that came specially to visit him. Fu-Manchu was doubtless one of the greatest magicians of this century. With his death in 1974 the Bamberg dynasty disappeared and of course its most shining star. -- Bazar de Magia, a site in Argentina.

SECRETOS.JPG (32995 bytes)  

Los Secretos de Fu-Manchu The Devil Doctor
Precio $1 Edición Española

A book explaining his tricks.

From the collection of Luis Puig, Barcelona

Milbourne Christopher himself wrote extensively on magic and magicians, and his book THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MAGIC (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973) discusses not only David Bamberg (Fu Manchu) but the entire Bamberg dynasty of magicians (six generations!) on pages 418-422, with 3 photos on page 417.

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Charles & Regina Reynolds New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1976. page 94

Go to The Page of Fu Manchu

Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 Lawrence Knapp. All rights reserved.

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