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.


Still 298-25 Discuss final arrangements of scheme

This photo (Still 298-25) is one of 5 photos that appeared in a 1920 Cinema Chat Ad for The Grim Game.

So who are the characters/actors depicted in this photo?

Harvey Hanford (Harry Houdini), Dr. Harvey Tyson (Arthur Hoyt), Ethel Delmead (Mae Busch).

So what is going on in this photo?

Dr. Tyson, Ethel and Hanford stop a second to discuss final arrangements of Hanford’s scheme then Dr. Tyson and Ethel start toward the gate.
[Scene 123 paraphrased from Paramount Script]

According to the details of Hanford’s scheme, Dr. Tyson is to order Cameron to the mountains for his health.  He is to arrange for the old man to go at night, secretly, accompanied by Ethel Delmead, a cabaret singer – selected for her beauty and winning personality – who will be coached in her part as nurse.  [The Grim Game Cast and Story]

What a Variety: 9 + 19 + 1919 = 52

Below is an original Grim Game ad from a rare Variety Magazine that I just acquired. Variety was established in 1905 when it was launched as a weekly periodical covering vaudeville with its headquarters in New York City.

The picture that is one long thrill!

For dramatic entertainment of universal appeal, “The Grim Game” is in a class by itself.  The aeroplane collision in midair – an accident wholly unexpected but caught in its entirety by the camera – is only one of a long succession of thrills.

These six reels of thrill-entertainment may now be seen at any Famous Players-Lasky Exchange.

Story by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Gray Directed by Irvin Willat

What makes this ad so cool is the following:

  • The date of the Magazine is September 19, 1919 (9 19 1919)
  • The page number that this ad appears on his page 52
  • It has an image of Houdini and his pet “Abraham Lincoln”
  • It has 4 roundel pictures of scenes from the film


Spanish Trading Card Translated

A rare 1930 Spanish Houdini Trading Card just sold on Ebay for $214.50. Below is the text from the back of the card translated to English by Google translator:

One movie has been enough for this fantastic artist was known universally. Son of a wealthy merchant born in Chicago in 1887, where he studied engineering. From child showed always a strong character and determined that led to the realization of their daring plans. I build armor-plating which was the reason of his only film prinicipal “Houdini and human tank”, which gave him much popularity.

It is of a nervous temperament, and among his numerous feats has made the climb in front of  a “skyscraper” with the sole help of his feet and hands.

Now retired from filmmaking.

So now that it’s somewhat translated, what does this all mean? Your guess is as good as mine.  My real interest in this card is actually the image of Houdini on the front.  You see it is the same image that appears on the cover of The Grim Game Press Book and
The Terror Island Press Book:

It’s Official

The Official Houdini Séance in Fort Worth Texas was killer.  I had the distinct pleasure and honor to attend this in person and have a VIP seat. It all started in September, when I found out from John Cox that this event was being open to the public for the first time in its four decade plus history.  This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  I immediately booked my hotel and flight to Dallas Fort Worth, Texas. According to Arthur Moses, I was one of the first ones to get a VIP seat.  And speaking about Arthur Moses, he really knows how to put on an event.  He invited special guests to his house on October 30th for a Texas BBQ and to see his world renowned Houdini collection; I was honored to get an invite, but I was not able to fly in until the day of the Séance (October 31st). Arthur told me he was sorry that I couldn’t make the BBQ and to see the collection on the 30th, but he offered me a plan B which was to come over for breakfast on November 1st before my flight leaves in the afternoon.  This was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Arthur is a gentleman and a scholar.  In fact, he has authored two books (Houdini Periodical Bibliography and Houdini Speaks Out) about Houdini.  I had the first one but not the second in my collection, and now thanks to Arthur’s generosity, I have signed copies of both.

On October 31st, I arrived in DFW at around 3:30, just three and half hours before the festivities were going to start.   I took a taxi to the hotel across the street from the Masonic Temple where the Official Houdini Séance was going to take place.  I just barely had time to walk over to Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth, get a bite to eat, get back to the hotel and get ready for an evening that I will never forget:

7 – 8 pm was the VIP private reception on the first floor in the Grand Ball Room, where John Cox introduced me to Arthur Moses and his wife Linda, as well as Bill Radner (son of the late great Sid Radner).  I also met a number of people from the local magic club (i.e. Magic Etc) in Fort Worth.

After beer, wine and appetizers, we then took the elevator up to the fourth floor.  This is where I received The Official Houdini Séance program and my VIP gift which was an old looking lock & keys with a portrait of Houdini and the words, The Official Houdini Séance Fort Worth 2012, stamped on it.

The Séance table was in the center of the room, with VIP seats surrounding the table.   On one side of the stage was a giant Houdini “straightjacket escape poster” from Ash Adams (Master of Ceremonies) extensive magic poster collection; And on the other side of the stage was an authentic Houdini Straight Jacket and an authentic Houdini Street Sign from Arthur Moses extensive Houdini collection.

Next was Introductions and Entertainment.

Ash Adams welcomed everyone and then introduced John Cox, who gave an outstanding talk and presentation on Houdini’s extraordinary career that was well received by all.  His talk included some unpublished photos, including a picture of Harry and Bess and a photo from The Grim Game of Houdini in a Bear Trap.  John’s presentation also included showing the Desperate Chances clip from The Grim Game which showed two planes crashing together in mid-air and plunging to earth. Everything went over extremely well. John should be very proud.

Next, Ash Adams introduced Bill Radner who gave a very touching tribute to his father Sid Radner. This included showing a video clip of his father explaining two of Houdini’s famous handcuffs. It was an honor and privilege to hear Bill speak about his father. Sid would be very proud of his son, just like Bill showed how proud he was of his father.

Next we had amazing performances by Jamie Salinas who escaped from a strait-jacket and by Shel Higgens who swallowed a sword while standing on a ladder.

Next we got to hear Houdini’s voice.

Next was an intermission, before the Official Houdini Séance began.

The Official Houdini Seace begins.

The members of the Inner Circle were then introduced as they made their way to the Séance table.  This included Bill Radner, Thomas J. Boldt, Derek Kennedy, Arthur Moses, John Cox, a lady whose name I didn’t catch, Ash Adams and possibly one other.  Due to the storm on the East Coast, at least two invited inner circle members could not be present. This included Fred Pittella who was going to bring Houdini’s spirit trumpet and Larry Weeks who has a complete print of The Grim Game which I am pretty sure he was not bringing to the Séance.

Scott Wells proceeded to conduct the séance in a very professional manner.  Although I don’t believe Houdini returned; there were some spooky moments that occurred during the séance that made one wonder.  This included a brochure on the table moving, seeing someone up on the balcony fading in and out and a chair on stage moving at the end of the séance.  Either way, the entire evening was very entertaining and quite enjoyable.  It was all recorded, so who knows what they will see when they play it back.

After the conclusion of the Séance, all guests were invited downstairs to the Grand Ballroom for a Meet & Greet and chance to share their wonderful experience.

This Official Houdini Séance was a complete success and will be hard to top. What an amazing way to spend Halloween.

The next day (November 1), I took a taxi to Arthur’s house and arrived around 9:40 am.  Upon arriving, I got to participate in a pod-cast hosted by Scott Wells, the man who conducted the Séance.  Participants included myself, Arthur Moses, John Cox, and Magician Jamie Salinas. I got to share my wonderful experience at the Official Houdini Séance event and talk a little bit about The Grim Game and my blog site.  After the podcast was over, it was time to worship in Arthur’s Temple of Houdini

It was overwhelming, that is, I was speechless at the amount of information before me.  I could spend days doing research, but I only had until 12:00 to absorb what I could before John Cox and I had to leave for the airport.  In the short time, that I was there, I was able to take some pictures of the Houdini Shrine, put on a strait-jacket, and look through some items pertaining to The Grim Game and Houdini’s other movies.  These included posters, cards, original artwork, photos, programs, magazine ads and some periodicals.

What an amazing experience that I remember for the rest of my life.

Update:  Check out these other related links: