Houdini Opens at Broadway


NY Tribune August 24th, 1919

93 years ago to the day, August 25th, 1919, The Grim Game opened at B.S. Moss’s Broadway Theatre at the corner of B’way & 41st St.

NY Tribune August 27th, 1919

Houdini appeared in person explaining on the stage a few of the dare-devil mystifying stunts portrayed in the film.

Below is a review of the film, story and Houdini’s speech from the NY Tribune.  Enjoy!

Houdini Shows How Easy It Is to Do Hard Things and Make a Good Photo Play

“The Grim Game”, at the Broadway Theatre is entirely different from any picture we have seen, and it seems to us a smashing success in every sense of the word.

Our only criticism is that the story is too long in getting started.  We wanted less preparation and more Houdini, and after the picture was finished we felt still more strongly that a lot of time had been wasted in the first two reels.  The last three are crammed full of miraculous escapes, aeroplane flights and disappearing heroes.

All of the things which Houdini does (they are not tricks) are done in plain sight of the camera, so that if you cannot do them too it is not because you do not know how they are done.

The story is by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Gray.  It tells of a miser, Thomas Jefferson, who lives alone a beautiful old home with his niece.  Her fiancé is Harry Hanford, a reporter.  This is Houdini.  The owner of the newspaper is in debt to old Cameron, who holds his notes.  A Richard Raver, lawyer, is also in debt and has forged his clients name to secure money.This part is cleverly played by Tully Marshall. Dr. Tyson who completes the triumvirate, would benefit by old Cameron’s death, because his will states that the doctor must marry his niece and inherit his money.

Hanford arranges a bet concerning circumstantial evidence, which if his employer wins, will bring him money enough to redeem the notes held by Cameron.

The old miser is to be spirited away and he himself is to be the suspect. Only the plan goes astray, for some one really does murder the old man, and the three men who have been in the game with Hanford all claim that they know nothing about it, and refuse to clear him.

As all three of them would benefit by Cameron’s death the story resolves itself into one of those mystery murder plays.

Houdini makes a speech at the end of the picture in which he tells of the aeroplane collision which is shown so plainly in the pictures.  The ending was to have been quite different, but when the propellers on two planes interlock, and the planes are sent whirling around in the air 4,000 feet above the earth and the camera catches it we do not wonder that they to keep it in the picture.

The plane in which Houdini is chasing his enemy is directly over the other plane. He lets himself down by a rope, and it was the intention of the scenario writer to have climb in the enemy plane and take the wheel, but the other way was much more exciting only, of course no one would voluntarily take such a risk.

Houdini’s speech is dignified and effective.  He makes no attempt to be facetious, but merely tells of the danger of making such a picture.  Irvin Willat  directed the picture and risked his life to photograph some of the scenes.

H. U.

Famous Players-Lasky Backlot

Houdini came to Hollywood, California in 1919 to film his two features (The Grim Game and Terror Island) for the Famous Players Lasky. The Famous Players-Lasky Backlot sat on the corner of Vine Street and Selma Avenue in Hollywood.  Click here to see other photos of the backlot.  See below for images of Houdini on the backlot.

The photo above is from my copy of the Magical Bulletin (April 1921 Vol. 9, No. 4). It shows Mr. Harry Houdini in the act of entertaining some of his associates at the Hollywood Studios during the filming of his famous pictures.

The photo above sold on eBay back in July. It shows Houdini standing on what is most likely the Famous Players-Lasky studio backlot.

To see another fantastic photo of Houdini on the Famous Players Lasky backlot, check out John’s blog at WildAboutHoudini.com titled, Houdini in HOLLYWOOD; the image on the blog is from Arthur Moses Collection.

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.

Thomas Jefferson Found

Last week, I posted a blog about the Old Man Jefferson Connection which looked at Houdini’s connection with Joe Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson.  Joe Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson were sons of actor Joseph Jefferson III who was famous for creating the role of Rip Van Winkle.  Houdini appeared on the same bill as Young Joe Jefferson during his vaudeville days and he appeared with Thomas Jefferson who played Old Man Cameron in The Grim Game.  In that blog, I posted a photo of Young Joe Jefferson but not Thomas Jefferson.   As far as I know, there are no movie stills of Thomas Jefferson from The Grim Game and I have seen and cataloged most if not all of the movie stills from the movie. So what did Thomas Jefferson look like; I combed the internet numerous times and finally found 2 photos at the findagrave.com website:

Thomas Jefferson
Birth: Sep. 10, 1856 New York, USA
Death: Apr. 2 1932 Hollywood Los Angeles County, California, USA

Son of actor Joseph Jefferson who was believed to be the earliest actor to appear in films. Married to actress Daisy Robinson, Jefferson followed his father’s footsteps as a stage actor for nearly half a century.  One of his greatest stage successes was playing Rip Van Winkle which he did for twenty-five years.  Jefferson was a member of D.W. Griffith’s stock company for a time during his career. Actor in numerous films, Jefferson passed away at his home in Los Feliz following a brief illness.

Burial: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot: Section 20B, #168 (unmarked)