Carl Ballantine Biography

Birthday: 1917-09-27
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois
Height: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
Wiki Biography: 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. Carl began showing up as an actor in the early 1960s, appearing on such comedy shows as "Car 54, Where Are You?" (recurring role) before hitting the big time with "McHale's Navy" (1962), which was similarly styled to Phil Silvers' service comedy "Sergeant Bilko". He played crewmen Lester Gruber for four seasons. Carl also was featured in such film comedies as The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) with Don Knotts, The World's Greatest Lover (1977) with Gene Wilder, Just You and Me, Kid (1979) with George Burns and Mr. Saturday Night (1992) with Billy Crystal. His last film was a bit part in Aimee Semple McPherson (2006) (aka "Sister Aimee"). Carl also was part of the regular cast on the sitcoms "The Queen and I" (1969) and "One in a Million" (1980). Every now and then his magician alter ego would reappear on such shows as "Fantasy Island," "Night Court" and "The Cosby Show". In later years Carl made a strong dent in the cartoon voice-over field and lent his voice to hundreds of regular commercials, including one for the California Raisins. Long married to actress Ceil Cabot, their 45 year marriage ended with her passing on January 27, 2000. They had two daughters, Molly, and actress/voice artist Sara Ballantine. Working practically to the very end, Carl succumbed to age-related problems on November 3, 2009, at age 92.

Carl BallantinePhotos & Pictures

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TV Title Appeared As Year Genre
Mc Hale's Navy Lester Gruber 1962 Comedy
McHale's Navy Lester Gruber 1962 - 1966 Comedy
One in a Million Max Kellerman 1980 - 1980
The Best of Times 1986 Comedy
Movies Title Appeared As Year Genre
The Shakiest Gun in the West 1968
Speedway 1968 0, 0, 0
The Girl Most Likely to... 1973 Comedy, Crime
The World's Greatest Lover Uncle Harry 1977
Just You and Me, Kid 1979 Comedy
The Best of Times 1986 Comedy, Drama, Sport
I Crave Rock & Roll Dewey Rose 1996 Comedy, Music
My Giant 1998 0, 0
Farewell to Harry 2002
Aimee Semple McPherson 2006