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Carl Ballantine


Carl Ballantine

(Meyer Kessler)


Carl Ballantine was born Meyer Kessler in Chicago, IL on September 27, 1917.

Most people will remember Carl Ballantine as an actor who appeared in more than 60 movie and television roles. Ballantine's most memorable role was as torpedoman Lester Gruber in the hit television comedy "McHale's Navy". Many may not know that Ballantine started his entertainment career as a magician.

As with many professional magicians, Carl became fascinated with magic as a child. The family barber showed young Carl a magic trick when he was nine years old and that was all it took, Ballantine became hooked on magic.

Carl began working as a printer's assistant, while performing magic on the side to supplement his family's income. In his early twenties, he moved to New York City where he performed magic in bars and night clubs.

Once while performing, a trick went terribly wrong. In an effort to recover the embarrassed Ballantine made a funny comment and the audience roared with laughter. Carl then decided to change his serious magic act into a comedy one.

In his early years he performed under many different names, Count Marakoff", "Carlton Sharpe" and "Carl Sharp". While performing in a bar in the early 1940s, Carl noticed a whiskey bottled os Scotch whiskey labelled "Ballantine's". Carl changed his name to Ballantine, and began himself as "The Great Ballantine, The World's Greatest Magician".

carl had made many television appearances in variety shows as a magician, his first acting role was in 1969 in the TV Series "Startime", "McHale's Navy", would follow two years later.

Ballantine would continue to act in many television shows and motion pictures, however his first love remained with magic. In later years Carl was the voice in many cartoons and commercials.

In 2008 at age 91, Carl Ballantine performed his last magic act at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Carl Ballantine (Meyer Kessler) died on November 3, 2009, in Hollywood Hills, California



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Page updated August 17, 2020