Charles Aldrich was an American magician, actor and quick-change artist. He enjoyed a very long and varied career in vaudeville and in films.
Considered to be one of the greatest quick change artists in history, Aldrich's signature routine was astounding. He stood on a pedestal in center stage, wearing only a one-piece athletic leotard, as a long cloth tube was lowered down to cover him. As soon as the tube touched his head, it dropped completely to the stage at his feet, and in that fraction of a second when the cloth tube passed over him, Aldrich had completely changed outfits.
Aldrich started his career as a tramp character comedian who was chased around the stage by a Dancing Handkerchief. It wasn't long before he incorporated quick costume changes into the routine. The act was so poplar that late in his career, Aldrich returned to the Dancing Handkerchief bit, but produced a whole group of silks to chase him.
Also early in his career, he performed a magic act as a Chinese character, capitalizing on the popularity of Ching Ling Foo, but producing a barrel of water from under his robe, rather than a bowl of goldfish.
Aldrich was on the bill for the First Royal Command Variety Performance in England in 1912. Two years later, he starred as the evil Abanazar in the Globe Theatre production of Chin Chin, which incorporated magic illusions in the story about Aladdin and his magic lamp. In 1918, he was part of the Everything show at the Hippodrome, along with Harry Houdini.
He acted in several fims as well, including The Toymaker in 1915 and The Lady from Cheyenne in 1941.
In 1911, he fired one of his assistants, who promptly contacted magician Will Goldston and revealed the secrets of Aldrich's quick change act to him. Goldston's book, Exclusive Magical Secrets, was the first book to reveal to the public the methods used by quick change artists.
Alrich's pitch book from his 1905 show season is shown to the left.
Aldrich's wife and son also had successful show business careers. His wife, Gloria Gordon, was a radio star, playing the role of "Mrs. O'Reilly" on the popular My Friend Irma show. His son, Gale Gordon, is best remembered as "Mr. Mooney", Lucille Ball's cantankerous boss on The Lucy Show.
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