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Willie's Magic Wand (1907)


Main image of Willie's Magic Wand (1907)
35mm, black and white, silent, 186 feet
DirectorW.R. Booth
Production CompanyCharles Urban Trading Company

Little Willie causes mischief with his magic wand.

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As with W.R. Booth's earlier episodic trick films The Haunted Curiosity Shop and Undressing Extraordinary (both 1901), Willie's Magic Wand is essentially a series of special-effects set pieces, loosely linked by the premise of a small boy 'borrowing' his magician father's wand and using it to wreak havoc in the household: a fish being prepared for supper starts flying, dive-bombing and generally terrorising the cook; a maid making the beds is attacked by a floating pillow that strews its feathers around the room; his grandmother is given a deeply unwanted thick bushy beard, and so on.

Essentially, this is a contemporary update of the traditional fairytale of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, set to music by the composer Paul Dukas exactly ten years earlier (a version immortalised by Walt Disney in Fantasia, US, 1940), though the difference here is that while the well-meaning apprentice was merely trying to use his embryonic skills as a labour-saving device, Willie is actively malicious, never more so than when he uses the wand to make his sister's beloved pet kitten literally explode.

Sadly, the print in the National Film and Television Archive is incomplete, omitting amongst other things a come-uppance where Willie is 'punished' for his misdemeanours by being turned into a girl, thus depriving him of more than one 'magic wand'.

Michael Brooke

*An extract from this film is featured as part of 'How They Laughed', Paul Merton's interactive guide to early British silent comedy. Note that this material is not limited to users in registered UK libraries and educational establishments: it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.

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Video Clips
Complete film (2:45)
Booth, W.R. (1869-1938)
Urban, Charles (1867-1942)
A Year in Film: 1907