Magician Bill Chaudet dies at 91

Worked as technical adviser, hand double for film, TV

Magician Louis William “Bill” Chaudet, a protege of Harry Blackstone Sr. and a technical adviser for film and television during the 1950s and 1960s, died in Folsom, Calif., on Jan. 5 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He was 91.

Chaudet, who was member No. 8 of Hollywood’s Magic Castle, either appeared on camera or served as an adviser on feature films including the original “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Cheyenne Autumn” and “The Trouble With Girls,” and TV shows including “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “Gunsmoke,” “Burke’s Law,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Big Valley,” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Wild, Wild West,” “Get Smart,” “Mission: Impossible,” “The Steve Allen Show,” “The Donald O’Connor Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” “I’ve Got a Secret” and “The Mike Douglas Show.”

For film or TV, Chaudet’s hands would often replace the star’s in order to accomplish the necessary sleight-of-hand or gambling moves for the scene. Chaudet was the hand double for Jimmy Stewart, Arthur Kennedy and John Carradine in the film “Cheyenne Autumn.” As he once explained, “First, they’d put me in Jimmy Stewart’s coat and shoot me as his hands doing all of my card work, and then I’d do the same in John Carradine’s coat and so on.”

Chaudet also trained stars including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Don Rickles, Ricardo Montalban, Victor Buono, Don Adams, Bernie Kopell, Jill St. John and the cast of “Gilligan’s Island.”

Inspired to become a magician after seeing Harry Blackstone Sr. perform, Chaudet traveled with the Blackstone Magic Show as an assistant and was eventually named Blackstone’s chosen successor in 1947, though he later returned the “successor” title to the Blackstone family when Harry Blackstone Jr. chose to enter the profession.

By 1960, Chaudet began getting calls to serve as technical adviser for television shows, and he began a long relationship with the producers at CBS Studio Center and the TV show “Gunsmoke.”

Chaudet grew up in Hollywood. His father, Louis Chaudet Sr., was a writer and director for the Nestor Film Co.; his mother, Allene Chaudet, was a vaudeville musician who later served as piano teacher to Gloria Swanson and Shirley Temple. Family friends included Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Will Rogers.

Chaudet is survived by his wife, Emmy, and a daughter from his first marriage.