Douglas Henning (Douglas James Henning)

Douglas Henning

Douglas James Henning (May 3, 1947 – February 7, 2000) was a Canadian magician, illusionist, escape artist and politician. Shortly after university, Henning was awarded a Canada Council for the Arts grant. The terms of the grant required Henning to study magic. He did so, traveling to view first hand the talents of such magic greats as Slydini and Dai Vernon. Doug studied under Tony Slydini and considered him his primary teacher of magic. With the intention of returning magic to its “glory days”, Henning worked to perfect his craft. Garnering financial support, he developed a live theatrical show, Spellbound, directed by Ivan Reitman, with music by Howard Shore and co-starring actress Jennifer Dale, a musical that combined a dramatic story and Henning’s magic tricks. The show opened in Toronto, where it broke box-office records. Henning reworked the show after catching the attention of New York producers, and took it to Broadway as The Magic Show, with songs composed by Stephen Schwartz. Debuting in 1974, the show ran for four and a half years, and earned Douglas Henning a Tony Award nomination.

Following his Broadway success, Douglas Henning approached NBC with the idea of producing a television special. It wasn’t until Henning suggested that he would reproduce live Harry Houdini’s famous and dangerous water-torture escape — for the first time since Houdini performed it himself — that the NBC executives signed him. Henning spent the next eight months reworking his stage act for TV and practicing the water-torture escape act. More than 50 million viewers tuned in for the December 1975 broadcast of Doug Henning’s World of Magic, hosted by Bill Cosby. In 1977, Douglas Henning co-wrote a biography of Houdini, Houdini: His Legend and His Magic. He created illusions for an Earth, Wind and Fire tour in 1979, and for two of singer Michael Jackson’s concerts, including his 1984 Victory Tour. Henning divorced Barbara De Angelis in 1981 and married Debby Douillard in the Ladies’ Dome in Fairfield, Iowa, in December of that year. In 1983, Henning was the producer and star of the Broadway musical Merlin. In 1984, he began a solo show on Broadway called Doug Henning and His World of Magic. In 1985, a set of plush toys called “Doug & Debby Henning’s: WONDER WHIMS” were made by Panosh Place and copyrighted by Marvin Glass and Associates. They were an attempt to get children to appreciate the magical wonders in the world around them.[citation needed] There were a total of six Wonder Whim characters. Each came with an animal friend, a personalized story, and a magic kaleidoscope wand of colors and patterns.

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  • May, 03, 1947
  • Canada
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba


  • February, 07, 2000
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • liver cancer


  • Cremated

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