Houdini in Riverside

The Mission Inn 3649 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California

Houdini stayed at the Riverside Mission Inn while filming underwater “Deep Sea Loot” movie scenes at Elliotta Springs Plunge.

Elliotta Springs Plunge, 1920

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

Based on an autographed letter on Mission Inn stationary that sold at auction,

HOUDINI, Harry. Autograph letter signed “Houdini” to Don Turley, “We are out here on location. Xpect to be here about 5 or more days.”

Riverside, CA: 2 November 1919. 1 page on The Mission Inn stationery. With original mailing envelope addressed in Houdini’s hand. Condition: usual folds, envelope torn at right where opened. harry houdini autograph letter written while on location filming the master mystery.

Houdini was at the Inn on 2 November 1919 and expected to be there about 5 or more days.

I contacted Steve Spiller, the executive director at the Mission Inn Museum, for more information on Houdini’s visit.

Steve got back to me right away and let me know that he forwarded my request to Karen Raines, the curator of history at the Mission Inn Museum and Kevin Hallaran, the archivist at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Karen was able to locate a November 6, 1919 article in the Riverside Daily Press paper that says he was staying in Riverside. She confirmed he did film the underwater scenes for the movie at Elliotta Springs, which is no longer there; it was up on Strong Street near Main.

Steve looked through their holdings and let me know that they didn’t have much information on Houdini’s visit, but did provide me a nice 1920 photograph of Elliotta Springs Plunge and an excellent reference to a book by a local author Joan Hall, called Through the Doors of the Mission Inn. Vol.1 that contained a very interesting chapter on Houdini’s stay in town.  Below are a few relevant excerpts:

In NOVEMBER 1919, the Riverside Press noted that world-famous magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, had been secretly staying at the Mission Inn for a week.  Normally, the publicity-seeking Houdini would have wanted the world to know where he was and what he was doing.  But in this instance Houdini was making a motion picture for Lasky Studio of Hollywood and he and the entire cast were quietly housed at the Inn.  Director Jim Cruze, a former motion picture star himself, was taking shots of Houdini in a series of underwater scenes at the Riverside’s Elliotta Springs Plunge. Crowds of fans were evidently to be avoided this time.

The plunge was located about a mile from the Mission Inn near north Main and Strong streets.  In 1898, William Elliott sank several wells to furnish a continuous flow of water to fill a large, public swimming pool.  The white sulfur spring water attracted swimmers as well as many early Hollywood motion picture companies.  Buster Keaton and Annette Kellerman were two stars who made movies in Elliotta.

While Houdini and the Lasky Studio crew were staying at the Mission Inn, Riverside experienced a sharp but quick earthquake on November 4.

Many years later, few Riversiders remembered Houdini had performed underwater scenes at Elliotta Plunge or that he had spent a week at the Mission Inn. The picture [“Deep Sea Loot”] was never completed and the Great Houdini received no publicity about his secluded Riverside visit.

Special Thanks to Steve Spiller, Karen Raines, Kevin Hallaran and Joan H. Hall for making this post possible.

Related:

A Look Back at 2016, Part 1 – The Year of The Master Mystery

2016 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) because it was the year of the Master Mystery (MM).

master mystery episodes 1 to 9master mystery episodes 10 to 15

Part I will cover movie highlights from HHCE and Part II will cover the other highlights from HHCE.

The year started out with a post about the Master Mystery opening in the State of New York the week of January 6, 1919 and that today footage is missing

TMM Kino

Well, it became my mission to find the missing footage and as much information as I could about the movie. 

So what did HHCE find?

Found out that the Master Mystery, opened in other states (e.g., Massachusetts, Pennsylvania) before New York, although it was shown at a special trade show on November 7, 1918 at the Strand Theatre in New York City, before it officially premiered in Boston on November 18, 1918

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Found a DVD that contained a movie short from the Master Mystery.

HH Seances Sonoma Documentary Special Features DVD back

Found evidence of four films based on The Master Mystery.  Reviewed them all and launched a series of posts that took a close look at each one and end with a post that summed up the mystery of all of these movies.

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Found that several versions of the 1918 serial exist on DVD, VHS, and in film archives. Reviewed them all and launched a series of posts that took a close look at each version, clarifying exactly what is missing and what is included.

TheMiracleFactoryMasterMysteryDVDTMM Kino imageMaster Mystery 1918 VHS McIlhany 1998 001

Although all versions by themselves are incomplete, we can now piece together a complete 15-episode Master Mystery serial as it first appeared in 1918, and I can now say that I have seen all of the Master Mystery.

In addition to the Master Mystery, HHCE undertook the task of sharing/restoring what is missing from Houdini’s Terror Island.

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While Terror Island is missing two full reels (3 & 4), HHCE (in 2016) just tackled restoring the missing Reel 3 scenes by using photos and script excerpts.

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Hopefully one day, we will get to see the complete Terror Island

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2015 was the year of The Grim Game and 2016 the year of The Master Mystery.

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Is 2017, the year of Terror Island?

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OTHER 2016 HHCE MOVIE RELATED POSTS:

Terror Island:

TI Lobby Card of 318-24 StillTI Posters 001Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 Top

Terror Island/Grim Game:

GG FDCTI FDC

The Grim Game:

GG 24 sheet Moving Picture World p 1327 June 5 1920Lot 120 PP June 25

Master Mystery:

MotionPictureNewsJul-Aug1918Reversemm-e3-postermotionpicturenew18moti_7_0678

Terror Island Part 3 (4 of 4) – Stills 4, 5

Here is the fourth of four installments, where I share stills and describe the scenes in chronological order from Part 3 which is missing from the current version of Terror Island.  This post begins where the previous installment left off.

Beverly is worried having not received an answer to her call.

Harper drawing himself up painfully, by aid of desk, gains his feet. Sato staggers in from kitchen.  He explains how he was overpowered.  Starkey staggers in and falls.

Harper says:  “Miss West do you think she is safe?”

The phone is found to be disconnected.

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[318-4]

Harper sees smashed model.  He goes to the fireplace and sits in easy chair.  The cat jumps on his lap.

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[318-5]

Starkey fixes phone.

Harper looks in direction of Starkey – smiles – takes box from cat’s neck – glances at it – then let eyes turn upward as he thinks of Beverly.

Beverly answers phone as she hears the voice of Starkey on the other end. FADEOUT

Outwitted in his efforts to secure the map, Guy Mordaunt turns his attention to Harper’s submarine, hoping to block the inventor.

The next day, Harper, Starkey and Beverly are in the dining room and Harper hands Beverly the jewel-box.

Sato and the Watchman enter the dining room and the Watchman says: “Somebody knocked me cold and put the sub out of commission – all of the gauges are smashed.”

Harper jumps to his feet, Beverly rises. Starkey gets up.  All show excitement as they prepare to depart.

End of Part 3.

Credits:

  • Cropped Stills – Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.)
  • Paraphrased Scenes – Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library

Terror Island Part 3 (3 of 4) – Stills 17, 18, 15

Here is the third of four installments, where I share stills and describe the scenes in chronological order from Part 3 which is missing from the current version of Terror Island.  This post begins where the previous installment left off.

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[318-17]

The two sailors rush forward.  Guy and two more sailors enter.  All begin a search of the desk and surroundings. Guy kneels beside Harper and searches his pockets, throwing a bunch of keys on desk which he takes from pockets.

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[318-18]

The Japanese Assistant disables phone.

Guy reaches into basket and lifts out cat – holds cat by the neck while he empties contents of the basket – then tosses cat from him.  He is unable to find the box.

Guy looking down at Harper with angry, vengeful expression – leans forward as if to vent his wrath on the unconscious man.  Suddenly he straightens – picks bunch of keys and turns toward model.

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[318-15]

Guy goes toward model in angry mood – picks up hammer and smashes model.  Guy and Sailors exit.

Credits:

  • Cropped Stills – Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.)
  • Paraphrased Scenes – Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library

Terror Island Part 3 (2 of 4) – Stills 14, 19, 20, 16

Here is the second of four installments, where I share stills and describe the scenes in chronological order from Part 3 which is missing from the current version of Terror Island.  This post begins where the previous installment left off.

Sato, Harper’s Japanese Assistant opens the door and is confronted by Mordaunt’s Japanese Assistant.

As Starkey exits, one of two sailors that slipped along the wall fells Starkey with blackjack.  He crumbles on the steps.

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[318-14]

Harper slowly rises to his feet, revolver in hand.  With left hand he motions over shoulder and calls “Sato!”

Mordaunt’s Japanese Assistant is seen bending over Sato, who has been rendered unconscious. We then see  Mordaunt’s Japanese Assistant pick up a heavy steel from table and exit toward where Harper is.

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[318-19]

Without looking around, Harper motions, who he thinks is Sato, to come forward.  The Mordaunt’s Japanese Assistant comes quickly and silently behind him and raises steel.  At the same time, the faces of the two sailors appear in hall door.  Harper raises revolver.

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[318-20]

The sailors are slowly raising their hands at a command from Harper.  Their eyes are staring as they watch the Japanese Assistant behind him.  By their faces, one sees the blow has fallen.

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[318-16]

The Mordaunt’s Japanese Assistant stands over Harper, ready for another blow, but Harper is unconscious.

Credits:

  • Cropped Stills – Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.)
  • Paraphrased Scenes – Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library

Terror Island Part 3 (1 of 4) – Stills 9, 7, 1, 3, 8, 10, 6

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[318-45]

As promised in a previous post, here is the first of four installments, where I share stills and describe the scenes in chronological order from Part 3 which is missing from the current version of Terror Island. This post begins where Part 2 ends on Kino; Part 2 ended with Beverly giving Harper[Houdini] the box with the pearl in it. “My uncles coming! Keep this for me!”

One of Guy Mordaunt’s men “saw the dame slip the box to that scrappy guy”.

We see a close-up of the pearl in jewel box, held in Harper’s hand and Guy crouching outside the window of the Library

Stella has a plan to get the jewel-box from Harper.

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[318-9]

Harper rises as Stella enters.

Stella speaks: “My Cousin West, is terribly worried about her jewel – a keepsake, you know – and she sent me for it – just couldn’t sleep without it.“

Harper is about to hand her the box when he looks down beside desk as though attracted by a sound.

A cat on floor looks up at desk.  Harper speaks to cat, stoops and picks her up, placing her on the desk and strokes her back.

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[318-7]

Harper is praising the cat, as Stella holds hand out for jewel.  The phone rings; Harper sits and places cat on lap and picks up phone.  It is Beverly on the phone who says: “I am a bit nervous and – worried. I know my jewel case is safe with you – but don’t let it out of your hands”

Harper hangs up, as Stella demands the jewel case.  Harper says: “Tell your cousin that I will give it to no one but herself.”

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[318-1]

As Harper is stroking cat on lap, his hand comes from jacket pocket and secretly fastens box to cat’s collar by a rubber band which the long hair of the cat covers.

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Stella demands the box and Harper shakes his head.

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As Harper sits at desk stroking cat, Starkey comes from behind chair

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and indicates he will take Stella home.

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Stella and Starkey exit.

Credits:

  • Cropped Stills – Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.)
  • Paraphrased Scenes – Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library

Terror Island Parts 3 and 4 according to Kino

Terror Island Parts 3 and 4 according to Kino:

terror-card-disclaimer-477x300Below is Kino’s brief explanatory text for Parts 3 and 4 which are considered missing:

TI Part 3A Kino TextTI Part 3B Kino TextTI Part 3C Kino Text

The reality is Kino’s brief explanatory text only covers Part 4 and not Part 3.

In future posts (i.e. four installments), I will share Stills from Part 3 and describe the scenes that lead up to Part 4.

Related:

MOTION PICTURES FDCs WITH ADD-ON CACHET

Below are two great vintage 1944 motion picture First Day Covers with add-on cachets for Houdini’s movies, The Grim Game and Terror Island.  These items recently sold individually on eBay for $15.50 and $15.55 respectively.  Congratulations to the winners!

Grim Game FDC:

GG FDC

  • MAGICIAN HARRY KELLAR VISITING HARRY HOUDINI AND DIRECTOR IRVIN WILLAT ON THE SET OF “THE GRIM GAME.” [Note: Arthur Moses owns the original photograph which I was lucky enough to see.]
  • FREEMASONS: Harry Houdini was a member of St. Cecile Lodge, New York.
  • He became a Shriner in New York’s Mecca Shrine in October 1926.
  • Harry Kellar was made a Mason May 1875 in Lodge Fraternidad y Homa at Peltas, Brazil.
  • Received the Royal Arch Degree on the Isle of Mauritius.
  • 1850 received the Scottish Rite Degrees in Triple Esperance Lodge, Port Luis, Mauritius, and the 33 AASR in New York City.
  • FIRST DAY OF ISSUE, FIRST DAY COVER, FDOI
  • PENCIL ADDRESS ERASED, SEALED
  • POSTMARKED: NEW YORK, NY, OCTOBER 31, 1944

Terror Island FDC:

TI FDC

  • Harry starred in TERROR ISLAND (1920) and several other films produced by others and himself.
  • He has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and a place in motion picture history.
  • FIRST DAY OF ISSUE, FIRST DAY COVER, FDOI
  • PENCIL ADDRESS ERASED, SEALED
  • POSTMARKED: NEW YORK, NY, OCTOBER 31, 1944

Hollywood Reporter LINK: In 1919, Houdini Was Seduced by Movie Magic

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Hollywood Flashback: In 1919, Houdini Was Seduced by Movie Magic – Hollywood Reporter

The famed magician, whose life was the inspiration behind 2013’s ‘Now You See Me’ and its sequel (out June 10), made his Hollywood debut in silent action films such as ‘The Grim Game’ and ‘Terror Island.’

Click the Hollywood reporter link below to read the rest of the story:

Note: The above story mentions that [Harry] Houdini lived in L.A. at 1616 N. Curson Ave. which is not quite true; it was actually Bess Houdini that lived there with Ed Saint sometime around 1936.

Mere Man Battles Nature – 300 feet of film is missing

 

Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 photoWhile filming a moving picture [Terror Island] on Catalina Island in California, he took part in a real-life nautical drama.  A small vessel had been disabled and was in immediate danger of capsizing or smashing into the rocks off Sugar Loaf Point. [The Witch of Lime Street]

Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 snippet 1

In response to the crew’s distress calls, Houdini quickly secured himself to a line and dove into the turbulent waters.  Shielding himself from the surf with a life preserver extended in front of him, he propelled himself with froglike strokes toward the stranded men – who, as if so directed, were waving and yelling for help.  While onshore a crowd in front of the Hotel St. Catherine cheered the star’s effort to save them. [The Witch of Lime Street]

Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 snippet 2

The scene did not unfold as it would have in one of his melodramas.  Exhausted, Houdini was cut on the rocks and battered almost unconscious.  He had to be saved by deep-sea divers.  It took a motor launch nearly forty-five minutes to cut through the waves and reach the party.  Even so, he wondered to himself if he could have pulled off the feat when he was younger. [The Witch of Lime Street]

Catalina Rescue from Tao p153 snippet 3

300 feet of film at 20 fps (75 feet a minute) is 4 minutes of footage.

Where is this footage now?

Credits:

  • The newspaper photo and snippets are from the November 29th, 1919 Los Angeles Newspaper article reproduced by Patrick Culliton in The Tao of Houdini on page 153.
  • The italicized passages are from page 35 and 36 of The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher.

Related: