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Max Malini

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Max Malini

Cover of Genii (1999)
BornMax Katz Breit
August 14, 1873
Ostrov (controlled at the time by the Austrian government)
DiedOctober 3, 1942 (age 69)
Resting placeWaldheim Jewish Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois

Max Malini (d.1875-d.1942) known as "The Last of the Mountebanks" is firmly in place as one of the most storied personalities in the history of magic, through the efforts of admirers like Dai Vernon and Ricky Jay.[1]


Malini was born Max Katz Breit in the small town of Ostrov on the borders of Poland and Austria in 1873. At a young age, he emigrated to America with his family, settling in New York City around 1888.

As early as twelve, he was already circulating in the rough-and-tumble world of Bowery saloons, where he busked for coins and developed his legendary "moxie". He studied jugglingm but under the tutelage of Professor Seiden he began his studies of magic when he was fifteen.

Despite having hands that were famously too small to entirely cover a card (and thus seemingly unable to secretly "palm" a card, which sounds like a difficult disadvantage for an aspiring magician to overcome) he perfected the use of timing, misdirection, advance preparation, and personally idiosyncratic sleight-of-hand techniques to the point that he became known around the world for performing seeming miracles.

Malini is acknowledged as perhaps the all-time master of impromptu magic. Tales of his unexpected exploits in bars and restaurants are the stuff of legend. He had the impishness to plan ahead, and the unshakable patience to wait for the best, most-uncanny moment to perform tricks which, when so expertly set up and timed, seemed to his mystified onlookers like miracles out of nowhere.

Malini reportedly stunned people. For example - he would suggest playing a little guessing game. He'd borrow a lady's hat, flip a coin, cover it with the hat and ask, "Lady or Eagle?" (i.e., heads or tails)...When he lifted the hat, a block of ice or a brick would be sitting there. -Even magicians such as Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller (legends in their own right) never knew exactly where he got, hid, nor how he "loaded" the ice under the hat.

Magicians never saw him practice, and he never talked shop. Evidently he was too busy circling the globe, and making/losing several fortunes...

He was a master of publicity and of insinuating himself into situations which ultimately led to bookings. As related in "The Stars of Magic", Malini lived by the motto, "You've got to go with people who have money if you want to make money". In "Malini and His Magic", Dai Vernon and Lewis Ganson state that "a list of prominent people entertained by Malini sounds almost fantastic." The list includes (but is not limited to): U.S. Presidents McKinley, Harding, Coolidge, T. Roosevelt; English Kings Edward VII, George V, George VI; The King of Siam, The Presidents of Cuba, Chile; John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor, General John (Black Jack) Pershing, and Enrico Caruso to name but a FEW.

His last performance was given while seated in a chair, for soldiers and sailors in Hawaii, a place he loved and where he had made some of his first big success.

He died in Honolulu, on October 3, 1942. Cremation in Hawaii was done by Oahu Cemetery, 2162 Nuuanu Avenue and his ashes were received in Chicago on January 5, 1943 and signed for by Myron Weinstein Brothers Memorial Chapel, 1300 West Devon Avenue, Chicago.[2][3][4][5]


  1. Cover, Genii Magazine, Vol. 75, No. 10, October 2012, Max Malini: Bigger Than Life, by David Ben, page 48
  2. Interlocutor 26, page 101, Karl Fulves
  3. Brief Biography at The Magic Nook
  5. Cover, Genii Magazine, Vol. 62, No. 11, November 1999, Focus on Malini, Compiled by Richard Kaufman, page 22
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  • The Sphinx, Vol. 38, No. 10, December 1938, Notes on Max Malini, by S. Leo Horowitz, page 252
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 41, No. 9, November 1942, Max Malini Died, page 187
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 11, January 1948, The Malini Story, by Some Who Knew Him, page 34
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 12, February 1948, The Malini Story, Compiled by Bob Stull - Part II, page 21
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 3, May 1948, The Malini Story, Some Who Knew Him, Compiled by Bob Stull - Part III, page 31
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 5, July 1948, The Malini Story, Some Who Knew Him, Compiled by Bob Stull - Part IV, page 34
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 6, August 1948, The Malini Story, Some Who Knew Him, Compiled by Bob Stull - Part V, page 27
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 8, October 1948, The Malini Story, Some Who Knew Him, Compiled by Bob Stull - Part VI, page 29
  • The Conjurors' Magazine, Vol. 4, No.11, January 1949, The Malini Story, Some Who Knew Him, page 19
  • M-U-M, Vol. 102, No. 5, October 2012, The Nielsen Gallery, Malini Portrait Panel, page 58
  • Bio-bibliographisches Lexikon der Zauberkünstler Edition Volker Huber, April 2002, Breit, Max Katz = Max Malini, poln. Zauberkünstler, (*1873 Ostrowo, †03.10.1942 Honolulu, Hawaii), page 60