Georges Méliès Movie Magic
"The Vanishing Lady" is an 1896 French short silent film directed by Georges Méliès.
Méliès was not only an innovative filmmaker, but also a magician.
In this film, based on magic act performed by the famous French magician Buatier de Kolta, features Méliès himself as the magician.
In the film, the magician walks onto a stage and brings out his assistant.
He spreads a newspaper on the floor (thus demonstrating that no trap door is hidden there) and places a chair on top of it.
He has his assistant sit in the chair, and spreads a blanket over her.
When he removes the blanket, she has disappeared.
He then waves his arms in the air and conjures up a skeleton.
He places the blanket over the skeleton and removes it to show the skeleton has vanished and in its place is his assistant, alive and well.
When de Kolta presented this illusion onstage, a trapdoor was used to create the appearances and disappearances.
For his film, however, Méliès needed no trapdoor, using instead an editing technique called the "substitution splice".
"The Vanishing Lady" was Méliès's first known use of this effect.