Performing Arts Collection
Levante, Les 'The Great Levante'
Levante, Les 'The Great Levante'


Australia's foremost entertainer of magical acts from the 1930s through to the 1950s was Sydney born Leslie Cole (1892 - 1978).  He spent most of his young life in Wangaratta, but in 1910 moved to Melbourne to work as a billiards maker in Richmond. It was here that he perfected many forms of sleight-of-hand using cards, coins and billiard balls.

In 1920 as The Great Levante began travelling throughout Australia, performing with his wife Gladys and a couple of assistants.  By 1929, daughter Esme Levante began performing with her father at the young age of five, and would later become a principal artist in Levantes' shows.

During the 1930s The Great Levante moved to England and created the extravagant magical revue How's Tricks, which featured not only magic, but dancing girls, comedians, speciality acts and 24 assistants.  Australians had their chance to see How's Tricks in 1940 when it was presented by J.C.Williamson Theatres Ltd.

Levante's acts varied from high thrill escapology acts such as jumping into a river while handcuffed, to more subtle tricks including the famous 'Thumb Tie Trick', 'Through a Keyhole Illusion', and the 'Magic Kettle', from which any drink that was requested could be poured.

From 1942 to 1944 Levante performed in Melbourne and Sydney.  He had two additional English tours before retirement in the late 1950s.  In 1977 he was presented with the Master Fellowship Award from The Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood. 

Collection Holdings

Levante's personal collection includes photographic material relating to productions, family and associates and portraits of Levante, dating 1938-1977. Levantes autobiography is a valuable resource for a more intimate understanding his life and career, as well as the development of magic as a performance discipline in Australian history.

Along with programmes, posters and costumes, the collection includes large stage props such as Pulling a Girl Through a Key Hole Illusion.

Photographs, promotional material, magical apparatus, costumes.

Magic 1940 - 1958


Levante, Esme
Irving, Ursula