Silent Film Cards – What do these Ladies have in common?

Joe M. Notaro Collection

They each starred with Harry Houdini in one of his two-pictures under the Paramount-Artcraft banner. Ann Forrest in the Grim Game (1919) and Lila Lee in Terror Island (1920)

Joe M. Notaro Collection

They were together in Paramount-Artcraft’s The Prince Chap (1920)

And they were card 11 and card 17 of the 20 card Spanish Silent Movie Card Set (Series VII) from the 1920s. Harry Houdini was card 20.

Joe M. Notaro Collection

Related:

Ann Forrest as described by Houdini

298-82 snippetSnippet of Still 298-82 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

HOW HOUDINI DID IT. Ann Forrest, who has played the heroine in Houdini’s picture, “The Grim Game,” at the Pentridge since Thursday, is described by Houdini himself as “one of the prettiest girls on the screen.” She was born the Isle of Fan, just off the coast of Denmark, and received her education there. She is of a true Danish type, with masses of blonde hair, large blue eyes, and the complexion of a milkmaid. Houdini referring to the love scenes he played with Ann Forrest, pathetically complained that he could not “love” Ann Forrest with Mrs. Houdini as a spectator. After a consultation, Houdini solved the problem giving his wife a cheque to spend in the bazaars, whilst the love scenes were being filmed.

[ Burnley News Saturday 20 November 1920]

Harry gets cozy with the ladies at Lasky Studios

During the making of the Grim Game, Houdini has been photographed at Lasky Studios getting cozy with:

Gloria Swanson,

Houdini and Gloria Swanson Photo from Photoplay September 1919 p102

Ann Forrest,

Ann Forrest 10x8

and the young lady pictured below.

Guess Who I Am

Care to guess who that young lady is?  Next week, I will reveal who that is, along with a very rare photo of the Hollywood starlet being swept off her feet by Houdini at Lasky Studios. You won’t want to miss it.

Irvin Willat


MUM AUG 1919 P15 HH HK IW

Irvin Willat was born on November 18, 1890 in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. He was a director and writer, known for The Grim Game (1919), The False Faces (1919) and Down Home (1920). He was married to Billie Dove. He died on April 17, 1976 in Santa Monica, California, USA.

NYPL Image 21665 GG HH AF IW

Candid Grim Game photo of Harry Houdini, Ann Forrest and Irvin Willat (Courtesy of NYPL, Image 21665)

 

Irvin Willat was the only man who could do better tricks and more tricks than Houdini.

He knew a good action scene when he saw one, and was the one cranking away steadily from a third plane, that caught the entire collision and the start of what looked like a fatal crash as the two Canucks spun earthward with Houdini’s stunt double, Robert E Kennedy, flying at the end of the rope like the tail on a doomed kite. Willat saw to it that the movie script was rewritten to take in the collision, and The Grim Game was finished accordingly.

houdini_movieIn a telegram to Willat, Houdini wrote, with some degree of exaggeration, “Grim Game opened today Broadway Theatre. Scored sensational success.  Its [sic] the talk of New York.  I am appearing in person and in my speech yours is the only name I mention.  Am giving you the biggest boost you ever had but you earned it.”

Sources:

  • Houdini’s High-Flying Hoax, by Art Ronnie, American Heritage April 1972
  • Irvin V. Willat, “Conversations with Irvin V. Willat,” interview by Robert S. Birchard, Film History 12, no. 1 (2000):38, paraphrasing a letter from Houdini.
  • Telegram from Houdini to Willat, August 26, 1919, Houdini biography file, Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, Beverly Hills, Calif.

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:

Answer: Who is the other man in Still 298-22

298-22 Kino HRHRC cap001 (L302-22)

Last year, I did a post, where I gave clues WRT who could be the other man in still 298-22.

The choices were Harry Houdini (Harvey Hanford), Thomas Jefferson (Dudley Cameron), Augustus Philips (Clifton Allison), Tully Marshall (Richard Raver), Arthur Hoyt (Dr. Tyson), or Unidentified actor (Old Servant Banks). We previously ruled out Harry Houdini, Arthur Hoyt and Tully Marshall.  So that left Thomas Jefferson, Augustus Philips and an unidentified actor.  Just solely based on the photos of the actors, it looks like it could be Augustus Philips or Thomas Jefferson; however there was no photo of the actor that played Old Banks to compare.  And if you read my blog, Thomas Jefferson Found, I made a statement: “That as far as I know, there are no movie stills of Thomas Jefferson from the Grim Game and I’ve seen and cataloged most if not all of the stills from the movie.”   So based on the above information if correct, would lead us to Augustus Philips or Old Banks.  I can tell you, it is not Augustus Philips.  So does that make it Old Banks?   Based on the circumstantial evidence previously presented, there was a strong case for Banks.  However, I have some additional evidence to present, that makes me think otherwise now:

During the scene when Cameron is scolding Houdini and telling him to get out, he seizes a large, old-fashioned revolver from top of safe and tries to get a shot at Houdini.  There is also another scene where Houdini mentions that Cameron has threatened to shoot him on sight.  And if we look at still 289-21 and 298-22, you will notice that Houdini and Ann Forrest outfits are the same in both stills; let me explain the events that led up to 289-21 and 298-22 which help make the case for Thomas Jefferson:  In an earlier scene, Cameron (Thomas Jefferson) asks Mary (Ann Forrest) if she can open a box – this is the  box seen in still 289-21; Mary is working at lock of box when Houdini unexpectedly shows up at the Cameron house. Mary and Houdini are in the library – Mary is worried that Cameron who is in the dining room might enter and discover them – Houdini opens the box – Cameron enters and sees the couple – Mary jumps in alarm at the sound of Cameron’s voice – Cameron gets gun – and voila, we have Still 298-22.  BTW, Houdini avoids the old man or disarms him and makes exit through window in comedy fashion.  [Paraphrased from Margaret Herrick Files]

The scene with Banks, Houdini and gun appears later, right after the scene depicted in still 298-80 which shows Mary (white dress) and Houdini in different outfits from still 298-22.

So based on the evidence now, I would say this is Thomas Jefferson (Dudley Cameron) as opposed to an unidentified actor (Old Banks) in still 298-22.

Case closed for the time being!

See Ann Forrest on a motorcycle in the Grim Game

The photo below is my rendition of what Ann Forrest might look like riding a motorcycle:

Rendition of Ann Forrest on Motorcyle

Scene 325 of The Grim Game takes place on a mountain road where we see Mary (Ann Forrest) riding in on a motorcycle.  After riding a long distance, the road is too rough for Mary to go any farther.  She stops and gets off of the motorcycle and proceeds quickly up a path. [Paraphrased from files at Margaret Herrick Library]

Still 298-80 (L302-80): Happy Valentines Day!

Let's Elope?

Let’s Elope?

This photo (Still 298-80) appeared in a Swedish Program [HHCE Collection] and a Danish Program [Arthur Moses Collection] for the Grim Game.

So what is going on in this photo?

Harvey Hanford (HH) calls at the Cameron home and finds Mary Cameron (Ann Forrest) in the garden. HH and Mary are sitting on a rustic bench. To her he explains the great newspaper scoop he hopes to put over which will make it easier for them to elope. Mary is quite enthusiastic over her lover’s attempt to land a big story and agrees with the plans.  Their plans all arranged, HH kisses Mary good night.  [Paraphrased from files at Margaret Herrick Library]

Houdini Relaxes on Set with Marguerite Marsh Not

The image above is the front and back of card #38 from Houdini: The World’s First Superhero” cards. And once again the image on the right (back of card) is
misidentified.  But instead of misidentifying the actress as Gloria Swanson like William Kalush and Larry Sloman did on page 360 of their book, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of Americas First Super Hero; the card misidentifies the actress as Marguerite Marsh.  Close, but no cigar.  The actress is not Gloria Swanson or Marguerite Marsh, but Ann Forrest (Houdini’s co-star) from the Grim Game.  Houdini did spend time with Gloria Swanson on the Lasky set, but was never in a movie with her.  See my blog Harry gets cozy with a young Gloria Swanson (and Ann Forrest) at Lasky Studios.  Houdini also cozied up with Margaret Marsh when he made the serial The Master Mystery. As the card above points out, Margaret Marsh played Eva Brent, the imperiled damsel in distress in the Master Mystery.

Houdini cozies up to Marguerite Marsh in The Master Mystery

 

Harry gets cozy with a young Gloria Swanson (and Ann Forrest) at Lasky Studios

Gloria Swanson

[Photoplay September 1919, page 102]

To Houdini, one rose and one smile, from Gloria Swanson. The handcuff king is making a new serial at the Lasky studios, and Gloria, the gorgeous Demille centerpiece, works there, too.

The following is an excerpt from Kalush,The Secret Life of Houdini, page 358:

Houdini was excited at the prospect of doing features. “I am drifting away from vaudeville, and with the exception of my European dates have no plans re a return”.  Where he was drifting to was Hollywood, where the temperature climate and the chance to rub elbows with other movie stars were appealing to him.  He became friendly with stars like Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle and spent time on the Lasky set with a young sultry star named Gloria Swanson.  She sent him an autographed photo (“To Mr. Houdini, Please show me some of your tricks. Most sincerely, Gloria Swanson”) that he kept in one of his scrapbooks.

See page 222 of The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare for another publicity photo (i.e., different than Photoplay photo above) of Houdini with Gloria Swanson that is from the collection of Bruce Averbook.

Ann Forrest

The photo below is misidentified on page 360 in earlier releases of The Secret Life of Houdini as Harry gets cozy with a young Gloria Swanson; this photo is actually Houdini and a young Ann Forrest (Houdini’s co-star in The Grim Game).  Houdini appears to be
wearing the same outfit (i.e., suit, tie, shoes, and strawhat) in this photo with Ann Forrest as the photos with Gloria Swanson.