R.I.P. Mark Wilson, magician host of Sixties Saturday morning series The Magic Land of Allakazam

His magic show ran alongside Bugs Bunny and Captain Kangaroo in the early '60s.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Saturday morning meant more than cartoons. From the creative creatures of the Krofft Brothers to the superhero adventures of Shazam!, live-action was a big part of our weekend viewing growing up. But those were series of the Seventies. One of the true pioneers of format was Mark Wilson. 

Wilson got his start as a professional magician in Dallas, where he hosted a local program called Time for Magic. The son of a salesman, Wilson used his pitching skills to get Dr. Pepper attached as a sponsor. With the introduction of videotape, Wilson was to become a pioneer in syndication, sending his show out nationally.

In 1960, Wilson premiered his series The Magic Land of Allakazam on CBS. It aired between Captain Kangaroo and Mighty Mouse on Saturday mornings. Two years later, the show jumped networks to ABC, sandwiched between The Bugs Bunny Show and My Friend Flicka around lunchtime. It truly was the advent of children's programming on Saturday mornings and afternoons.

Now sponsored by Kellogg's Cereal, Allakazam introduced millions of kids to the wonders of magic. Many magicians credit Wilson for standardizing the presentation magic on television. Not only was it a weekly showcase of the artform, Wilson wisely opted to perform before a live studio audience, and refrained from cutting away to "prove" his tricks were not mere editing wizardry.

Nani Darnell, Wilson's wife, appeared alongside him on The Magic Land of Allakazam. Those who grew up watching it will remember Rebo the Clown, as well, not to mention several puppets. 

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Penn & Teller explained, "Prior to Wilson, magic on TV was limited to short spots on shows like Ed Sullivan's. Wilson pioneered the idea that there was a wide audience for a television series based on magic."

Wilson died two months ago, according to The Hollywood Reporter, though his passing was not reported until March 8. He was 91.

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EricFuller 4 months ago
There was a quarterback from BYU by the name of Mark Wilson who played for the Raiders. So anytime when BYU or the Raiders were on TV I was waiting for some sportscaster to mention something about that show.
texasluva 4 months ago
I never seen nor heard of The Magic Land of Allakazam (Mark Wilson). I do not believe it was shown in the San Diego area. I remember The Johnny Downs Show, on Channel 10 and of course The Howdy Doody Show. It's tough to hear those passing that we grew up with. R.I.P.
cabugi texasluva 3 months ago
Me neither.
obectionoverruled 4 months ago
Sorry, my Saturday mornings were spent memorizing the multiplication tables being hurled at us daily by Sister Mary Tortuous, and sweeping out the garage with a worn out broom...but at 11am, all duties were suspended for Sky King, king of the western skies in the Songbird and his sexy daughter Penny!... then after mom’s delicioso braunschweiger sandwich on Wonder Bread with Mayo and a big bowl of green Jello, it was off to meet the guys over at the park for some baseball...were we the only game in town with 8 outfielders, a catcher and a backstop, and a lineup featuring 22 batters?...my, how did we ever survive without Dominos Pizza, video games and $600 mountain bikes?...we were so mistreated day after day, but somehow made it through life...amazing, weren’t we?...
We had stand up tests on multiplication tables. One to get it first stays up and then another comes up to challenge you. Sort of like King Of The Mountain. It was just 1 to 12 ones. I would get through 3-4 before someone dethroned me. No. I had no one whacking my Knuckles with a ruler or threats of Hades in my future. Though I was sent to a corner with my table and chair once or twice for talking (grade school). Worst I ever saw around 5th grade was a student calling a teacher a liar. Backhanded by teacher. Just things back then you never thought of doing. Baseball and sports were awesome-along with marbles. Plus the girl in class you had a crush on. Good times with Halloween carnivals and many other events- Remember the Cake Walk? You pay a dime or so and everyone walks around during the music and when it stops you grab a chair. One left up is out. Last one to get chair wins the cake or prize.
dth1971 4 months ago
Mark Wilson's "Magic Land of Alakazam" featured Hanna-Barbera Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound shorts, if only METV's "Toon In With Me" can add it the H-B Yogi/Huck Hound shorts to the mix with the Bugs Bunny and Popeye and Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes shorts.
ncadams27 4 months ago
To me watching magic on television where you can only see what the camera shows you is like listening to a ventriloquist on the radio. Having said that, Edgar Bergen did a good job of it. He, Jack Benny and some friends had lunch together and Jack asked for the check (he wasn’t cheap in real life). After paying he muttered, “This is the last time I’m having lunch with a ventriloquist”. I do remember Allakazsm - a nice diversion from the cartoons.
Tlor 4 months ago
I remember him! my husband goes I don't but then I read the article out loud. Then I mentioned Narni Darnell >>>THEN he remembered her!
CaptainDunsel 4 months ago
Mark Wilson also tutored Bill Bixby for his role as Anthony Blake in the 1973-74 TV series "The Magician", if I recall correctly. (Extra trivia: In the original concept, the character was an escape artist. See 1971s "Escape", starring Christopher George.)
justjeff 4 months ago
I used to love watching "The Magic Land of Alakazam"... and well remember Mark Wilson, Nani Darnell and Rebo the Clown.

I did some digging... Rebo was played by Bev Bergeron, who died in December of 2020. He was also a magician and (from Mark Evanier's blog) "...was also Ronald McDonald for a time and spent fifteen years performing in the Diamond Horseshoe Review at Walt Disney World in Florida."

Another page turned, another chapter gone from our youth...
justjeff justjeff 4 months ago
Two pictures of Bev Bergeron...
MrsPhilHarris 4 months ago
Love that title “The Magic Land Of Allakazam”.
daDoctah 4 months ago
I thought he passed away several years ago. I may have mixed him up with Marshall Brodien.

(Yikes. I just looked up Brodien, and he died on March 8, 2019. This is like when the two guys who played M*A*S*H's Colonel Blake died exactly one year apart!)
RobertM 4 months ago
Mark Wilson was in an episode of "The Odd Couple", which also co-starred Richard Dawson.
lynngdance RobertM 4 months ago
Richard Dawson was in an episode of the Odd Couple? By any chance do you know the name of the episode? 😁
ncadams27 lynngdance 4 months ago
Laugh Clown Laugh. Richard Dawson played himself co-hosting a variety show with Oscar.
lynngdance ncadams27 4 months ago
Thanks! 😄
VBartilucci 4 months ago
Nani Darnell, however, is still alive and well
DethBiz 4 months ago
RIP also to Gil Rogers. Soap-vet, but I will always remember him as Sheriff Billy in the horror movie The Children.
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