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11/03/2010

One year ago: Carl Ballantine

November 3, 2010 |  6:00 am

BallatineCarl Ballantine was a comedian and actor who is credited with innovating comedy magic performances and greatly influencing a generation of comedians.

Ballantine was well known as an inept comic magician variously billed as "The Amazing Ballantine," "The Great Ballantine" and "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician."

As an actor, he was best known for playing crew member Lester Gruber on "McHale's Navy," the popular 1962-66 series that starred Ernest Borgnine.

"Carl Ballantine influenced not only myself but a generation of magicians and comedians," said actor Steve Martin. "His was also the most copied act by a host of amateurs and professionals."

In 2007, Martin presented Ballantine with the Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

Ballantine appeared in a number of films, including "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1968), "The World's Greatest Lover" (1977) and "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992).

He also did occasional cartoon voice-overs and hundreds of voice-overs for commercials, including one for the California Raisins in which he voiced the Raisins' talent agent, a Claymation character that resembled him.

For more on the magic comedian, read Carl Ballantine's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Carl Ballantine. Credit: Family handout

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