|Born:||April 11, 1911|
|Died:||January 27, 1993|
Leon Giglio, better known by his stage name Leon Mandrake, was an Italian-American magician, mentalist, illusionist, escapologist, ventriloquist and stunt performer known worldwide as Mandrake the Magician.
Leon was born in Washington state and when he was very young his mother brought him to New Westminster, British Columbia. In 1922 he began his magic career giving vaudeville performances in New Westminster, and by the 1930s he traveled with his own magic show. In 1939 he married his chief on-stage assistant, known for her stage name Princess Narda. Leon Mandrake was known for his black top hat, black cape, and thin handlebar mustache, and performed in under the name Leon Mandrake, the Magician & Co.
Falk said he got the name for his character from John Donne: "Goe, and catche a falling starre... Get with child a mandrake root." But in fact, Leon Mandrake had been performing well over ten years before Lee Falk introduced the comic strip character. So, consciously or unconsciously, it is possible that Falk could have "borrowed" the name of Leon for his new comic strip character. There is also uncertainties related to when Leon Mandrake started to use the Magician connected to his stage names. There has been no written sources that he used the Magician about 1934, but several in the 40s.
Many sources assert that the comic strip character also was drawn to resemble Leon. What is known is while Leon was touring with his stage act, he met Phil Davis in St. Louis, and they became friends and corresponded for years. What is less certain is when this meeting should have happened.
Leon Mandrake was married to his first wife, Narda, from 1939 to 1946. Narda appears first time in the daily strips "The Hawk (Mandrake Meets Narda)" from 1934-1935. So here it is Leon who have borrowed the name from the newspaper strips, probably from the 1939 story "Mandrake in Cockaigne". Probably it was at this time that Leon Mandrake started to use the Magician in his stage name.
Anyway, a huge promotional opportunity loomed, and Falk/Davis and Leon Mandrake ended up with a kind of verbal agreement at that point. The comic strip character and the real magician cross-promote each other with the result that Mandrake the Magician became recognized throughout North America.