Lot 120 One Sheet Grim Game Poster

Lot 120 PP June 25

On June 25th, Potter&Potter will be having a Golden Age of Magic Posters the Nielsen Collection auction that will include a beautiful one sheet Grim Game Poster (See Lot 120 Description below).  For more details on other items being offered and a downloadable catalog, you can go to Potter and Potter website: http://www.potterauctions.com/.

The estimate for the Grim Game poster is $40,000/60,000.

Lot 120 Description:

Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weisz). Houdini In The Grim Game. Cleveland: Morgan Litho., 1919. Iconic one-sheet poster for this silent film presented by Jesse Lasky, and featuring the world’s most famous magician and escape artist, pictured at the center of the image in a straight jacket and being held back by a group of eight men, including police and hospital attendants. 28 x 41″. Minor restoration at old folds and a few tiny chips. A-. Scarce. Houdini starred in this stunt and escape-filled film opposite Ann Forrest, who played his fiancée. As Harvey Hanford, Houdini is framed for murder and falsely imprisoned, but escapes his jail cell and pursues the men who framed him and also kidnapped his fiancée. The film concludes with a mid-air collision of two airplanes, which was unplanned at the time of the filming, but was later worked in to the script to utilize footage of the crash, an event that had, until that time, never been captured on film. The movie was directed by Irvin Willat and featured a story by John Grey and Arthur Reeve. Produced by Famous Players-Lasky, it was distributed by Paramount Artcraft Pictures. All posters advertising this film are scarce and desireable, as they combine the allure of the silent film era with the unforgettable and iconic escapes that made Houdini the most famous magician of the century.


  • The one-sheet for Houdini’s The Grim Game sold for $24,000 (including buyer’s premium) with just one bid! It fell well below the estimate.


LINK: The Grim Game Review by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz

Grim Game Lobby Card eBayOur friends, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA did a nice review of The Grim Game that they were fortunate enough to see several times in NYC, when they were living and performing in New York City, shown by collector Larry Weeks.

MUM New York, August 1919 page 20Check it out:

You will also find some other nice Grim Game links at their website:

Is 2015 the year of The Grim Game?

Related Posts:

An Amazing Magical Work of Art

The following amazing magical work of art that was estimated to sell between $1,200/$1,500 just sold yesterday at Potter & Potter Auctions for the starting bid of $600.00.  Congratulations to the winner.  BTW, I was the winner.

Houdini Grim Game Limited Edition 1 of 10

366. Houdini, Harry. Grim Game Dimensional Giclée Print. American, 2006. By Dave Avanzino. Number 1 from a signed and numbered edition of 10. Recreating a three-dimensional version of the color lithograph advertising Houdini’s silent film, The Grim Game. Handsomely framed to an overall size of 18 ¼ x 24 ¼”. Signed and numbered by the artist. Fine condition.

This artwork originally debuted at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History in November of 2007 with remaining pieces offered to the rest of the magic community via ads in magic magazines like Genii (e.g., Vol 71 Issue 3 and 5). The listing price in the ads was $1200 each.

Mixed Media and famed Disney Artist David Avanzino used this beautiful rich piece to create a unique dimensional scene where the characters seem to come alive and float in space.  Each element has been hand cut by the artist and, after painting the edges of each piece, he assembled them in a shadow box of amazing dimensionality.

The classic poster image was reproduced from the library of Nielson Magic Posters with their permission.  All of their posters are scanned directly on 1:1 proportion from the original.

What’s Wrong with these Pictures?


GG DVD ARTWORKLet’s start with the obvious.  The DVD artwork for both pictures is from a poster from “The Grim Game”.

GG Posters

Now, let’s briefly discuss the two films that Houdini wrote and produced.

The film (“The Man From Beyond”) had its faults, but critics agreed that one scene alone was worth the price of admission.  “It has a whale of a punch,” Variety said. “Houdini does a sensational rescue of the heroine in the Niagara Falls rapids, and it has a kick that would carry any audience”.

Regrettably there was nothing in “Haldane of the Secret Service” to match the Niagara Falls rescue in “The Man From Beyond” or the fantastic escapes of his earliest films (e.g. “The Grim Game”).  He (Houdini) read his reviews with dismay. He compared his cost sheets with his income statements. Sadly, he removed his pending productions from the active file and brought his career as a picture producer to an abrupt finish. [Houdini, The Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher]

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.

Double Take

What is the difference between these ads besides the variation in color?

Each version was the second page of a four-page ad created to promote the original release of the film.  The drawings on each are the same, but the text is quite different.

The first one is the version that appeared in my copy of the MUM Society of Americans Magicians Monthly, New York August 1919. The second one most likely appeared in some magazine as well due to the few staple holes.

Below is the breakdown of the text for comparison.  The text for the first version is in bold and the text for the second version is in italics.


On June First, 1919, the Associated Press carried from Los Angeles a story of the thrilling aeroplane accident that took place during the filming of “The Grim Game.”
The Associated Press on June 1, carried from Los Angeles a story of the most amazing aeroplane accident that has ever occurred. 

The story of the two planes which crashed together in mid-air and plunged to earth buzzed on the wires to every newspaper in America.
Amazing because no one was hurt, though two machines collided and fell thousands of feet to earth.

You will see the collision in “The Grim Game”.
The accident occurred in the filming of “The Grim Game”

It was an accident, but the camera man had the presence of mind to keep it turning.
The camera man in the third plane was cool-headed enough to keep on turning, though he was sure that the occupants of both machines would be killed.

The drawings on this page show how it happened.
The drawings on this page show what you see in the film. 

Houdini on the rope attempts to descend to the lower plane. 
Houdini prepares to descend to the plane beneath him. He swings off onto the rope.

The camera man was in the third machine.

The lower machine turned its propeller upward – the propellers gnashed together—
The lower plane turns its propeller upward – The propellers gnash together!

The lower plane crashed into the upper one – cutting off a wing –

The two planes, locked and helpless, crashed to earth!
The two planes lock – They plunge to earth!

It’s all in the picture – and lots more! 

The greatest thrill in the greatest thrill picture ever made!
A thrill that can never be duplicated!


Note: The third and fourth pages of the four-page ad are the same; And the first page of the four-page ad is the same with the exception that the ad that apprears in the MUM Society of Americans Magicians Monthly, New York August 1919, has one extra line of text added: Endorsed by the Society of American Magicians

S.A.M. Endorses Houdini’s Picture “The Grim Game”

The Grim Game is endorsed by The Society of American Magicians;  As well as New York Mail, Morning Telegraph, New York Times, New York Tribune, New York American and Harrison Reports:

A special meeting of The Society of American Magicians was held at the Magical Palace, 493 Sixth Avenue, on Thursday evening, August 14th at 8:30 o’clock with President Houdini in the chair.  President Houdini extended invitation to members of S.A.M. present to attend a private exhibition of his latest motion picture production “The Grim Game”, which was eagerly accepted. [MUM New York, August 1919 p 21]

The endorsement was given at a private showing of the picture for the members of the society in New York, which was attended by Houdini, Howard Thurston, Francis E. Werner, G. G. Laurenz, Hardeen, William J. Hilliar and about forty others.  [The Sphinx September 1919, page 162]

After the showing, Mr. Howard Thurston said: “I have always thought Houdini was a great showman, but I expected nothing like this,  It leaves nothing undone.  Houdini may now retire, confident that he has done his greatest work.  It is one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen” [The Sphinx September 1919, page 162]

At the conclusion of Mr Thurston’s speech, Oscar S. Teale, Secretary of the S.A.M. said: “Gentleman, I move that the Society of American Magicians pronounce this picture a glowing success, worthy of highest commendation, and that it go forth as officially endorsed by this society.”  His move was quickly seconded, and the vote was carried unanimously.  [The Sphinx September 1919, page 162]

Where Does The Grim Game Rate?

It made the list of the 100 Best Movie Posters; it was the best movie poster in 1919:

It made the list of WTE Classic Movie Poster Cards; it was number 18 out of 20:

It made the list of the best 10 movies about magic of all time; it was number 9

And last but not least, it is considered Houdini’s best movie.

Therefore, it appears to rate pretty good for a movie that has not been seen by many.

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.