Original posted as part of the LMN blog that I wrote in 2021. This is a revised updated version.
Part of my journey rediscovering magic in the last few years was attending live theatre magic shows. In 2018, I had the opportunity to watch a live performance of a classic and well loved magic trick, famed for being performed by the amazing Tommy Cooper.
Jamie Raven performed the “Glass Bottle/Multiplying Bottles” routine in tribute to the much loved performer - Tommy Cooper. A multiplying bottle routine that is an extension of the original “Passe Passe” bottle routine.
I watched in amazement and still have the video of that performance. It brought back many memories of watching Tommy Cooper actually perform the routine on TV as a child.
Since then, I have watched the Tommy Cooper routine many times on YouTube with many versions uploaded to view.
The “Glass Bottle/multiplying bottles” routine is known for the famous chaotic presentation and humour as Tommy Cooper grows the numbers of bottles after just starting with one glass and bottle with tubes, attempting to swap the positions of the covered glass and bottle. This being the original “passe passe” routine.
Chaos then ensures and famously, more bottles keep appearing from the tubes. The routine ending with many bottles on stage and famed for its presentation by Cooper, who likes to give the impression that all is going wrong while actually proving himself to be totally in control.
Researching the history of the trick indicates that certainly the original was on sale in the late 1800’s (performances from about 1876) and manufactured by companies such as Blands. A switch of a covered glass and bottle under tubes.
The first addition to the effect adding multiple bottles was from about 1919. But the multiplying bottles did not get any real popularity until the Abbott’s Magic Company revived it in 1949. At that point, many dealers including Davenports then started selling it.
Often performed by other artists, as a true classic. Tommy of course being a true comedy legend and magician made the trick his own, presenting the effect in his own way. A popular and memorable trick for many layman.
Tommy was born in 1921 and died in 1984 of a heart attack while performing live on television. A tragic end.
For those who are interested in Tommy Cooper, a few TV shows are currently available to stream.
My5 has “ Tommy Cooper: In his Own Words” available to stream. Sir Michael Parkinson and Jimmy Tarbuck and others reflect on what made Tommy Cooper one of the best comedians.
ITV3 via the ITV hub has a two part show called “Tommy Cooper Forever”. Again available to stream. A celebration of Tommy Cooper’s life and work.
A look back at the comic genius himself. Featuring comedians like Jennifer Saunders and Pete Firman. A two part show which included old and previously unseen footage of Tommy. One interview was particularly enlightening, footage of the real Tommy being himself and talking about his career in the army. The show then progresses to his career in entertainment. Very enjoyable.
Credit to Genii Magazine wiki for some of the historic facts. Link below.