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

boston_post_mon__nov_18__1918_-1

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.

the_public_ledger_wed__feb_2__1921_the_public_ledger_thu__mar_10__1921_-1the_public_ledger_wed__jan_19__1921_

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.

terror card disclaimer

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.

318-1 wmc318-20 wmc318-5 wmc

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

motionpictnew212unse_0418_0419

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

airplane-collision-in-the-cloudsfilmfun346356lesl_0374

Is 2017, the year of Terror Island?

amazing-under-water-scenesterror-island-motion-picture-news-5-2 (1)

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

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

houdini_h_arms-h_2016

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.

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.

UPDATE:

  • 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.

Related:

And the winner of the Grim Game vs Terror Island at Potter & Potter’s Auction is?

HoudiniWebAd

On April 9th, Potter & Potter had a Houdiniana Auction that featured a large number of Houdini Movie Stills from the Grim Game and Terror Island.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

There was 16 Terror Island Movie Still Lots:

  • 178, 179, 184, 186, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 202, 209, 210, 219, 220, 230

There was 14 Grim Game Movie Still Lots:

  • 175, 176, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 203, 204, 217, 218, 221, 224, 231

Terror Island Notes: Lot 230 from Terror Island was misidentified as being a Movie Still from Haldane of the Secret Service. Lots 179, 190 and 210 listed the wrong serial number.

Grim Game Notes: Lot 232 from the Master Mystery was misidentified as being a Film Still from the Grim Game. Lot 204 listed the wrong serial number.

Terror Island lots brought in $9150 before buyer’s premium.

Grim Game lots brought in $8400 before buyer’s premium.

The highest Grim Game Lot (L302-87) below brought in $1700 before buyer’s premium.

44227980_1_l

The highest Terror Island Lot 230 (L318-19) below brought in $950 before buyer’s premium.

44227992_1_l

So based on the numbers who do you think won?

If you log into Live Auctioneers you can see all the auction results.

HHCE Plans for the future

HHCE HomePage

In 2011, when I started HarryHoudiniCircumstantialEvidence.com (HHCE) my mission statement and purpose of this blog site was as follows:

  • Bring Harry Houdini and The Grim Game to life so that we will all feel like we have seen the movie
  • Plan to present all the evidence and research gathered to date one blog at a time
  • Evidence and research will consist of Exhibits (ads, newspaper articles, press clippings, lobby stills, lobby cards, related links, blogs, posters, eBay, books, etc…)

Well, now that just about everyone has seen The Grim Game (TGG), it’s time for a slightly modified mission statement:

  • Bring Harry Houdini and his movies to life so that we will all feel like we have seen them in their entirety with no parts missing.

I plan to focus on the following two Houdini Movies that have parts missing:

  • Terror Island (TI)
  • Master Mystery (MM)

TI MM 001Although my focus will be on TI and MM, I also have plans for the following:

  • Share parts of an Original Story and Screen Play for a Houdini Film that was never made
  • Share parts of the Original Grim Game Story by Arthur B. Reeves & John W. Grey before the screenwriter and continuity writer put their take on the story

In addition to movies, I am also planning to focus on:

  • Houdini’s connection with Lovecraft and Eddy

And whatever else sparks my interest.

A Look Back at 2015, Part 1 – The Year of The Grim Game

GrimGameTitleBrookzDietrich

Two of the people who were key to opening that lock! Copyright Houdini Museum

 

Thanks to the efforts of Dorothy Dietrich & Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum and their long-time friendship with Larry Weeks and their acquaintance with film producer Rick Schmidlin, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) acquired the Larry Weeks print of Houdini’s 1919 feature, The Grim Game (TGG). Fred Pittella (Larry Weeks best friend) was also an essential part of the recovery of TGG. The recovered movie underwent a full restoration and had its world-premiere at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood on March 29th with a live score conducted by composer Brane Zivkovic. It was then shown in places like Wisconsin (Apr 16), Michigan (May 28), Pennsylvania (Jun 13, Jul 2), Texas (Jul 19), Finland (Aug 21), Scotland (Aug 22, 23), Illinois (Sept 16), New York (Sept 16), and England (Oct 11), before it was aired on the TCM network (Oct 18) with alternate scores, one by Brane Zivkovic and another by Steve Sterner.  And then as a grand finale, in November, John Bengston, “the great detective of silent film locations,” revealed many of the Grim Game filming locations and historic LA landmarks.

the-grim-game-and-cops_page_08 (2)Cahuenga alley harrythe-grim-game-and-cops_page_17 (1)

[Harbour Apartments at 612 St. Paul Street; The Cahuenga alley; Bergstrom Estate 590 N. Vermont]

So 2015 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) because it was the year of the Grim Game.

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

Let’s get started. The Houdini news that I had been waiting years to hear finally arrived on January 23rd, 2015 in a press release from TCM:

298-14-239x300Ann Forrest Houdini Historical Center298-15 001

GrimGameScrantonTimes1Trim1-435x1024This was followed by a number of other press releases in February and March:

Conservation_g-game-loop-croppedthegrimgame-Arthur-Moses-Image

Then one week away from the premier of The Grim Game at the 2015 TCM Film Classic, HHCE shared a different Grim Game productions still each day leading up to the event on March 29, 2015:

298-55-236x300MHL-298-3-300x267298-48

In April, shared my review of The Grim Game and the Festivities in Hollywood:

photo-28-A-225x300GG AM Gift Bag Photo of Contents 001 Aphoto (23)

In June, HHCE and TGG went to Scranton:Scranton-Welcomes-Joe-Notaro-1024x766

image877-300x225HoudiniMuseumGrimGameJune1

In July, TGG screens at a Magic Convention Once Again:

20640674_1_l-228x300Backstage_SAM_logo

In October, The Grim Game made its television debut, but was first shown privately and publicly in August 1919:

MUM-New-York-August-1919-page-17Houdini%20Grim%20Game%201%20ggtcm

Throughout the year, there were a number of posts on TGG music:

BraneScore_TheGrimmGame-300x200-300x200GG Musical Ensemble and Runtime 001A1919 Musical Synopsis TGGGrimGameMainTheme50SternerGrimGame153 Videos with new Piano Score

Other highlights on TGG included a series on Houdini Grim Game Cards throughout the years:

1920-Kinema-Comic-InsertGGPB Lobby Cards 200 001 AHH-Superhero-Card-21-002-300x204Weird TalesTheWonderWallet-1975-GG-cards-300x209houdini sketch cards gorman 298-47

And sharing a number of posts related to the Aeroplane incident:

Kennedy Forrest Thompson Pickup Wilson WillatPopular Mechanics Nov 1919 page 642Pickup Thompson Kennedy HoudiniThompson Upside Down Plane 001aimageRobert-Kennedy-After-Collision-300x241

What a year for TGG, now if we could just get a DVD:

image

Photo Credits:

  • TGG film location images courtesy of John Cox and John Bengston
  • TGG Still images courtesy of A.M.P.A.S
  • TGG Movie Set image and TGG Souvenir Set image courtesy of Arthur Moses
  • B&W Aeroplane images courtesy of Cecil B. Demille Trust
  • Steve Sterner photo, TGG piano music, and Scranton Press release courtesy of Houdini Museum

The Grim Game hits San Francisco

San_Francisco_Chronicle_Thu__Oct_9__1919_ (1)

Click to enlarge

Although the Grim Game was first shown privately and publicly in August 1919, it was not officially released until October 12, 1919. And that’s when it first appeared in San Francisco with live orchestra music on October 12, 1919 at the Portola Theatre located at corner of Market Street and 4th.

96 years later, December 5th at 3pm, you can see the restored film with live piano music by Donald Sosin at the San Francisco Film Festival at the Castro Theatre located at 429 Castro Street at Market Street.  You can buy a full day pass to “A Day of Silents” or an individual ticket to “The Grim Game”.

TGG CASTRO THEATRE SF 001

I highly recommend seeing it on big screen.  I was fortunate enough to see the TCM premier in Hollywood on a big screen with live orchestra music, as well as on a big screen at the Houdini Museum.  Two amazing experiences that I will never forget.

Check it out in S.F.!

You’ll enjoy it thoroughly.

Bonus:

San_Francisco_Chronicle_Mon__Oct_13__1919_

San Francisco Chronicle Oct 13, 1919 Page 5

Private Showing of The Grim Game In New York

 

MUM-New-York-August-1919-page-17

Last month when The Grim Game made its Television debut on TCM, I mentioned that it originally made its debut at the B.S. Moss Broadway Theatre in New York City on August 25th, 1919.  Well prior to its original debut, Houdini gave a private showing in NYC, which I promised to comment on.

The following passage is excerpted verbatim, even to the punctuation from a private letter WRT to a private showing of The Grim Game on August 18th, 1919:

Monday night 8 o’clock shapr [sic] there will be a private show of my latest picture The Grim Game which will be shown only to a few chosen magic friends before the regular trade showing and if you have desire to see same would like to have pleasure of having you attend.  Takes place at the production room of Lasky Famous Players offices, 400 [485] Fifth Ave near 42nd St. Monday August 17th [Note: Monday was really August 18th] Tried to get you twice on phone and no answer. Regards sincerely yours Houdini. [The Houdini Code Mystery by William V. Rauscher, page 106]

Note:  Koval places the private showing at 485 Fifth Avenue, which was the address of the corporate main office right across from the New York Public Library.

Aug 18 – A private showing of “The Grim Game” is given to Houdini’s chosen friends at the Lasky Famous Players Offices at 485 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

The Society of American Magicians officially endorsed The Grim Game at this private showing:

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

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”.  At the conclusion of Mr. Thurston’s speech, Oscar S. Teale, Secretary of the S.A.M. said:

“Gentlemen, I move that the Society of American Magicians pronounce the picture a glowing success, worthy of highest commendation, and that it go forth as officially endorsed by this society.”

[The Sphinx, September 1919]

Bonus:

According to a 17 September 1919 New York Clipper article, the Famous Players also had New York City offices at 428 Fifth avenue, 729 Seventh avenue and at 469 Fifth avenue, but at the termination of the leases, the company will use the entire front of the Putman Building [at Forty-Third street and Broadway] for its offices:

NY Clipper 17 Sep 1919 Putnam Bldg To Become Theatre