Carl Ballantine

Carl Ballantine

87 (passed away Nov. 3rd, 2009)
Sep. 27th, 1922
Born in
Chicago, Illinois, USA
6' 2" (1.8

Carl Ballantine's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
McHale's Navy TV Show
McHale's Navy
Car 54, Where are You? TV Show
Car 54, Where are You?
Laredo TV Show
One in a Million TV Show
One in a Million

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


Part of the motley crew commandeered by Ernest Borgnine on the popular 1960s TV series McHale's Navy (1962), tall, gangly, beady-eyed, bulb-nosed comic actor Carl Ballantine was better known in other ports as the ultimate "magician". Billed as "The Amazing Ballantine," "The Great Ballantine" and "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician" during his long career, Carl made a comedy career out of being inept -- the magician who could never finish a trick or get the trick right in the first place. So successful was he, in fact, that in 2007 actor/magician Steve Martin presented Carl with the Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
The Chicago native was born Meyer Kessler in Chicago on September 27, 1917, and became fascinated by the magic tricks his barber use to show him at a young age. He immediately began studying the art. Deciding to legit as a magician, he gradually realized that his potential as a comic was much better than as a magician so he decided to spoof his magic act -- pulling up laughs instead of rabbits out of a hat. Changing his name to the more agreeable marquee moniker ("Ballantine") in the early 1940s, it took Carl some time to refine his act as a "bad" magician but eventually he found a successful formula. He later went on to perform at such top establishments as the Palace Theatre in New York, as well as a number of Las Vegas niteries (the first "magician" to do so). The act also made its way to the small screen, becoming a popular time-filler on the TV variety circuit during the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Acting-wise, he is still best remembered for his co-starring role of navy man Lester Gruber on the TV series _"McHale's Navy" (1962)_ (qv) starring 'Ernest Borgnine' (qv) and 'Tim Conway' (qv).
  • Changed his name to Ballantine early in his career after he happened to spot a bottle of Ballantine Whiskey in an advertisement and decided that the name of his magic act would be "Ballantine, the World's Greatest Magician".
  • Father of 'Sara Ballantine' (qv).
  • Inveterate smoker of Cuban stogies.
  • Performed as Lycus, the slave merchant, on Broadway in the 1972 revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" starring 'Phil Silvers' (qv).
  • One-of-a-kind, he was billed as the incomparable Carl "The Amazing" Ballantine, the only magician who NEVER did a trick. Actually, in his early career, he did a manipulation act, but gave up real magic when he realized he could not be as good as some of his peers. However, he did become the first magician to headline in Las Vegas.
  • In addition to being an actor, Ballantine is an accomplished magician.

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