The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Overview

A full-color graphic memoir inspired by the award-winning documentary-and the life and mystery of China's greatest magician.

Who was Long Tack Sam?

He was born in 1885. He ran away from Shangdung Province to join the circus. He was an acrobat. A magician. A comic. An impresario. A restaurateur. A theater owner. A world traveler. An East-West ambassador. A mentor to Orson Welles. He was considered the greatest ...

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Overview

A full-color graphic memoir inspired by the award-winning documentary-and the life and mystery of China's greatest magician.

Who was Long Tack Sam?

He was born in 1885. He ran away from Shangdung Province to join the circus. He was an acrobat. A magician. A comic. An impresario. A restaurateur. A theater owner. A world traveler. An East-West ambassador. A mentor to Orson Welles. He was considered the greatest act in the history of vaudeville.

In this gorgeous graphic memoir, his great-granddaughter, the artist and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, resurrects his fascinating life for the rest of the world. It's an exhilarating testament to a forgotten man. And every picture is true.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Like the linking-rings magic trick, two stories intertwine: Long Tack Sam's around-the-world life and the transcontinental crusade of his great-granddaughter author Fleming to reanimate him. Relatives and magicians from America to mainland China opened doors for her, uncovered memorabilia, and spun yarns. Trained in China as a magician and acrobat around the turn of the 20th century, Long immigrated to Europe, married an Austrian beauty, and then took American vaudeville by storm. Rubbing elbows with Cary Grant, Jack Benny, and George Burns (who later confirmed Long's skill to Fleming), Long knew everyone and turned up everywhere but refused to act in Hollywood movies because only villainous and despicable character roles were offered to Asians at the time. Thus his story dropped from public knowledge as vaudeville ended. In what amounts to a colorful collage-postcards, clippings, photos, handbills, letters, cartoons, and Fleming's own cheery sketches of Stickgirl-Fleming carries their stories through two world wars, turbulent international politics, and Asian racism. That both Long and Fleming triumphed despite incredible barriers is the real happy ending. Fleming is an independent filmmaker, and this graphic novel is based on her 2003 award-winning, feature-length documentary. Her captivating and moving scrapbook-style portrait is recommended for teen and adult collections.
—Martha Cornog

Kirkus Reviews
Just about every aspect of Canadian independent filmmaker and animator Fleming's first foray into graphic literature dazzles like a Broadway marquee. Using as a springboard for this illustrated memoir her award-winning 2003 documentary film of the same title, Fleming tells the amazing, forgotten story of her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam (1895-1961). He was one of the 20th century's most famous magicians, playing the Palace Theatre, Broadway's top vaudeville house, more often even than Houdini. The rise to popular glory of a small acrobat from a village in China offers his great-granddaughter an opportunity for her own journey of self-discovery. Just as Sam's variety show captivated audiences from Shanghai to New Zealand and New York, Fleming aims here to enchant both young and old with a fascinating scrapbook-style narrative. It's vividly illustrated and quite moving, particularly the portrait of transcontinental love between Sam and Austrian shopgirl Leopoldine Roesler, who married in 1908. What really distinguishes the work, however, is its collage-like, collaborative form. Fleming underscores her belief that "it's hard to know what is true" by including the different versions of Sam's history she encountered in various sources; she chose to have these multiple possibilities illustrated by Julian Lawrence in the ravishing style of a 1930s comic. Gently connecting the dots among episodes in Sam's life, offering captions for the photos and for the found objects from his career, is "Stickgirl," a charming persona drawn by Fleming herself. She narrates the work as a friend sitting next to you on the couch might annotate the pages of a family photo album, an approach that creates greatintimacy. Meanwhile, a timeline of important 20th-century events runs alongside the personal narrative, illustrating how daily life is subject to world affairs. A touching, playful tribute to a vaudeville giant-and so much more.
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the late '90s, filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming discovered a 16mm film in her grandmother's basement that included footage of her great-grandfather's name in lights on marquees throughout the world. Why had Long Tack Sam, a famed vaudevillian and friend of luminaries from Orson Welles to Charlie Chaplin, been forgotten both in the West and in his native China? Her pursuit of the answer culminated in a documentary film; the fascinating story continues in this memoir of the same title, written and illustrated by Fleming, with additional drawings by Julian Lawrence in a suitably retrospective style, and archival photographs and playbills from the era.

Fleming chronicles not only Sam's Western career but his work in China, where he learned acrobatics and opened four theaters; and the life of his family, including Fleming's grandmother, once a world-famous beauty. The result is an old-fashioned mystery, a poignant meditation on the ephemeral nature of fame, and an instructive history, tracing four generations of a polyglot, truly multicultural family, surviving and sometimes thriving as artists and citizens through a century's excitements.
--Amy Benfer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594482649
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/4/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 792,864
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Marie Fleming is an award-winning independent filmmaker, writer and artist born in Okinawa, of Chinese and Australian parentage. Her films include the shorts Blue Skies and Room 712, and the features, The French Guy and The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.
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