THE GRIM GAME Cinema Trade Promotion (Stills 298-54 and 298-63)

Last week I posted a snippet of an article by Bayard Grimshaw about THE STUDENT AND THE BLOW from Abracadabra Magazine Saturday 23rd March 1974.   This week, in honor of the Oscars, I thought I would share a Grim Game photo that was used in that same special edition of Abracadabra Magazine:

GG cinema trade photo 001

This came from a sheet issued to the Cinema Trade to promote The Grim Game Movie in 1919.

The bottom image is from still 298-54 .

Mary [Ann Forrest] is visiting Houdini at the jail to let him know that hoax is going according to plan.  The guard then gives them contrary news:  “They found the body [Cameron] in the old well – poor place to hide it.  Guess your trial will be a short one”.  Houdini smiles and voices his doubt.  The guard tells them he is not joking…Gradually the truth of the matter that Cameron is really dead is forced home on Houdini and Mary.  Houdini tells Mary to go see the others and tell them to explain the hoax and have him released. [scenes 212-225 Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]

And the top image is from still 298-63 and is part of the sequence where Houdini escapes from the jail after Mary leaves.  See the following earlier post for details:

What is Houdini’s Greatest Stunt on Screen?

Care to take a guess?

1920 03 20 The Picture Show Image 1

During an half an hour interview, Houdini was asked the following question:

WHAT do you consider the greatest stunt you have done for the screen?

“ Another incident in the same picture,” answered Houdini.

“ I stood in the archway of a prison, thus –“ Here he took up a crouching position, in the corner of the room, and enacted the whole thing for my benefit.  “ A heavily loaded jerry, going at twenty-two or -four miles an hour rolled by me.  I threw myself on the ground, completely rolling over between the fast revolving fore and hind wheels over and over, till I caught the transmission bar, and hung there for very dear life! Thus was I carried to the aid of the heroine.  Though my words may not convey very much, this was my greatest stunt.  It allowed of no rehearsals – I said to the camera-man, ‘Get this now or never!’  And had I made the slightest false move I should have been crippled for life, if not killed ”.  [The Picture Show, March 20, 1920 p19]

Here is another account of the incident.

Here is another great stunt from the Grim Game.


The Prison/Truck stunt(s) sound amazing, as does the Strait-Jacket/Awning/Wall stunt(s). For me, I need to see the movie to decide which one is the greatest stunt.

Special Thanks to Bill Mullins who shared with me the “Half-An-Hour with Houdini” Interview and photo from The Picture Show Magazine.

Rare Houdini Poster

This poster is an awsome find in the world of Houdini collectibles – a fantastic photo of a classic Houdini pose (L302-60). These were made around the late 1970s and are rare enough to be collectible but not so rare that that they break your bank account.  I was fortunate enough to pick one up for $29.99 and that included shipping.  It measures 16×20 and is on a high grade semi-gloss paper.  It is proudly displayed in my Houdini room.

Houdini’s “Strange Power Over Locks”

Above all, the performer must give the impression that he possesses some mysterious power over locks.” [Burling Hull, the Challenge Handcuff Act]

According to Patrick Cullington [Houdini the Key], Burling Hull added this text to the written instructions that went with Houdini’s Defiance Handcuff act when he republished them under his own name. Hull didn’t steal that idea from Houdini’s writings, he stole it from Houdini’s act.

Houdini’s “strange power over locks” was demonstrated in every performance of his handcuff act and it was definately demonstrated in his movies as evidenced by The Grim Game movie stills depicted in this blog. 

Everything about Houdini’s expression indicates that he is exercising a “power”. [Patrick Cullington, Houdini the Key]


Stone Walls and Chains Do Not Make a Prison – For Houdini

Picture Houdini pacing up and down in the cell and then suddenly he stops, looks at his handcuffs and goes to the cell door. He peers out and sees the guard is not near.  He then sits down and begins removing his shackles. He succeeds in liberating his hands and now turns his attention to the leg irons.  He gets rid of the leg irons, runs to the door, peers out again and then sits back down on to the cot. He removes his shoe and takes the handcuffs and pries a portion of the sole of shoe revealing a steel shank in the instep.  This he pulls out.  He stands on the cot, reaches bars of window; puts cuffs on bars and using leg iron as lever begins to bend them. 

Finding that his head will now fit through the opening, he pulls himself up and wriggles his way through the bars and stands on window ledge many stories above ground.  Standing here, on the ledge, he reaches out and secures the rope of a flag pole.  He ties rope to bars of window, cuts rope with steel shank taken from shoe and begins lowering himself down to the window ledge below. Arriving on this ledge, he cuts off the end of the rope, ties it to the cell bar on this window and lowers himself again.  At each story, the rope gets shorter until finally, he is within one story of the ground. 

You can guess what happens next.  That’s right, he leaps down into the alleyway and makes a dive under a fast moving truck.  Houdini is seen clinging to bars underneath the truck as he makes his getaway.

[Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]


This is just one of the exciting escape sequences from the “The Grim Game”.

Here is another:

I’ve Seen Most of The Grim Game

Poster Image created from still photo 298-8

That is, I have had the distinct pleasure and honor to be allowed access to the Margaret Herrick’s Library Special Collection file of original production stills from The Grim Game.   I can tell you it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.  There were 10 envelopes in the file that contained 87 unique stills ranging from Production# 298-1 to Production# 298-92.  All 92 production numbers were accounted for with the exception of these ten: 298-3, 298-33, 298-34, 298-35, 298-36, 298-37, 298-58, 298-66, 298-76 and 298-90.  Now, there were four stills in the file that did not have the production number on it, so they could account for four out of the ten missing; plus I have also seen 298-3 (L302-3, mid-air collision), 298-34 (plane), and three other stills (jail scene and two other mid-air plane images) without the production number that could account for five more of the ten missing. Plus, the infamous L302-55 (298-55) image was not in the file, but a totally different image for 298-55 was in the file.  And there were two images of 298-27 in the file that are totally different images.  So, there is no guarantee the stills are all correctly numbered.  In addition:  Production numbers 19, 20, and 21 were marked with 289-19, 289-20, and 289-21 as opposed to 298-19, 298-20, and 298-21.  And, some of the production numbers were written in pen on the still.

So, based on this circumstantial evidence, I can pretty much say that I have now seen and cataloged most of the production stills for The Grim Game.

Poster Image created from still photo 298-71


Here are some interesting counts of the 87 unique stills found in the special collection file at the Margaret Herrick’s Library:

  • Harry Houdini was in all 87 stills; Yes, I said ALL.  I don’t think you can say that for his other movies.
  • Ann Forrest was in 21 stills.
  • A Straw Hat was in 17 stills.
  • The Jail was in 15 stills.
  • An airplane was in 13 stills



If you or someone you know has a 298 or L302 image from The Grim Game with any of the following numbers (33, 35, 36, 37, 58, 66, 76 or 90) on it, please send me an email describing the image, so that I can correctly catalog all of the stills for The Grim Game.

Also, if you have an image from The Grim Game that is missing the production number on it, and would like to know what the production number is for that image, send an email and I will be glad to identify it for you.

L302-55 versus L302-60 Part II

My previous blog, L302-55 versus L302-60, which we will call Part I showed two famous images of Houdini standing shackled in a Jail Cell with cuffs and ball & chains that are similar but slightly different images.

This blog which we will call Part II presents some physical evidence of where these images have shown up.

In the Los Angeles Times, The Book Review Section, on Sunday, January 22, 1978, the L302-55 image appeared in the article that Ricky Jay did on the book Houdini: His Legend and His Magic by Doug Henning with Charles Reynolds.  The funny thing is that in the actual book, the L302-60 image is the image that appears in the book on page 147.

Also, there was a seller on E-Bay who was selling an item titled, Famous HOUDINI with chains photograph-Antique NegativeOne of the better quality portraits of Houdini extant that had a picture of the actual negative for sale and a picture of what it would supposedly look like developed.  On closer inspection, the negative was of L302-60 and the developed picture was of L302-55; note both pictures on E-Bay had the L302 numbers cropped off.

See below for more evidence.



L302-55 versus L302-60


Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center


New York Public Library

Just about everyone of us has seen a famous image of Houdini standing in a jail cell with cuffs and chains.

But which one did you see?

  • L302-55 or L302-60

And where?

  • Television, VHS, DVD, Book, Baseball Card, Magazine, Newpaper, TV Guide, Ebay

How do you tell them apart?

  • Look at location of Houdini’s right thumb
  • Look at location of the top of Houdini’s hair

Which is your favorite and why?

  • L302-55 or L302-60

Next week’s post will include other evidence of where these images have appeared.