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Ricky Jay is one of America's best-known magicians and one of the world's foremost authorities on theatrical history, sleight-of-hand and gambling. In a documentary screening the next two weekends at Webster U., he remembers the great magicians who shared their craft with him, illusionists such as vaudeville-trained Al Flosso, who performed at Jay's New York bar mitzvah, and dapper Dai Vernon, to whom he apprenticed in his Hollywood hippie years.

The movie also includes clips from Jay's many talk-show appearances, such as when he fleeced Steve Martin in a game of Three-Card Monte on “The Dinah Shore Show,” and observations from his frequent stage-and-screen director David Mamet.

But in keeping with the magicians' code of secrecy, it doesn't tip its hand too much about Jay himself. (He only reveals that he's married in the last few minutes of the film.)

If you watch it and are baffled by his up-close card tricks, abracadabra: the film will re-appear next weekend at the same time and place.


'Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay'

When: Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; schedule repeats next weekend • Where: Moore Auditorium at Webster University, 470 East Lockwood Avenue • How much: $6 • More info: 314-968-7487 or

Joe Williams is the film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.