Is it true that Houdini never smoked?
While I don’t have a real photo of Houdini smoking, I do have some circumstantial evidence that he did:
On Monday 18th April, it was a cold and windless morning. As Houdini waited for final preparation to be made, he smoked a cigarette. This was highly unusual for Houdini and it indicated that he was nervous. He gave orders in a ‘quiet yet incisive manner’ and watched with a ‘critical though quite unmoved eye.’
At approximately 8 am he took off and made a flight lasting between three to four minutes which covered a few hundred meters. This marked the first officially recorded successful powered, controlled flight in New South Wales [Australia]. [Houdini’s Tour of Australia by Leann Richards]
After reading the above account, I searched for more evidence and was able to find a newspaper that documented this:
Houdini himself seemed the least perturbed of the party. Cooling smoking a cigarette, he watched preparations with a critical though quite unmoved eye. That he was taking an interest in the proceedings could be observed from the quiet yet incisive manner in which he ordered minor defects to be remedied. [The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 19 April 1910, page 8.]
I also found the following:
Though personally frugal, and except on their anniversary, rarely known to join Bess in a glass of champagne, Houdini may have explored other mood-altering substances around the time he went to Hollywood. Will Goldston believed he sometimes partook of a ‘nip of opium’ of the kind widely available in Edwardian music-hall circles, if only for its analgesic properties. The drug may have numbed the pain of a damaged kidney and other health-related issues collected over the years, but, as with Bess’s drinking, it didn’t always produce a felicitous state. [Masters of Mystery by Christopher Sandford]
Does anyone else have knowledge or evidence of Houdini smoking or exploring mood-altering substances.?
John Cox at Wild About Houdini just posted an excellent blog: Gone With The Handcuff King: David O. Seiznick’s Houdini which talks about a Houdini biopic in the 1940s that Hardeen was on board with as the technical adviser. Then, like so many Houdini biopics before, it vanished in a puff of smoke.
Hardeen was also going to reissue The Master Mystery:
Manny Baum and “Hardeen”, brother of the late Houdini, will reissue the 15-two-reel episode serial “The Master Mystery”, which starred Houdini, originally released in silent form by Octagon Films, Inc., 25 years ago. The reissue film will contain a narration and musical background. [Motion Picture Daily Vol. 55 No. 41 Tuesday, February 29 1944]
Unfortunately, I think it vanished in a puff of smoke.
Cecilia Weiss, Houdini’s mother, in “Queen Victoria” dress (Photo courtesy of Marguerite Elliott)
One day, toward the end of January 1901, Houdini happened to notice an elegant gown displayed in the window of a London shop. When he stepped inside he learned that it had been designed for Queen Victoria, but she had died a few weeks before it was finished and hence never worn it. Seized by a sudden inspiration, Houdini persuaded the shopkeeper to sell it to him. He promptly wrote to his mother in New York, inviting her to join him in Europe.
They traveled to her native Budapest, where in Palm Gardens of the Royal Hotel, which Houdini had booked for the occasion, his mother held court wearing the gown designed for the Queen of England, while her son stood proudly at her side.
Was this really the dress designed for Queen Victoria, or was Houdini duped by the shopkeeper who sold it to him, or did he himself concoct the entire story? Does it really matter?
I hope everybody treats their mother like a Queen today.
H A P P Y M O T H E R S D A Y !
Source: Houdini: A Mind In Chains by Bernard C. Meyer, M.D.
J Gordon Whitehead’s name appears on the ARTS 29 list in the Old McGill 1927 Yearbook, but the guy we surmised was Gordon in the ARTS 28 group photo from the 1926 Yearbook, does not appear to be found in this ARTS 29 group photo. This sort of makes sense, since Gordon supposedly dropped out of school shortly after the Houdini incident; so it is possible his name still appeared as a student in 1927, but he wasn’t around for a photo.
Is the Whitehead above, the same Whitehead as the one below?
J. G. Whitehead
UPDATE: The answer is NO.
W. G. Whitehead real name is Wallace I. Whitehead and was from the ARTS ’27 class.
See the Don Bell book, The Man Who Killed Houdini, chapter 13 (A Brother Found) and page 246 for some more information on a possible connection between Wally and Gordon.
J.Gordon Whitehead was from the ARTS ’28 class, although he never graduated. He was born in Gourock Scotland November 25, 1895, graduated from Kelowna High School, British Columbia, in 1914, and dropped out of McGill in 1926, almost immediately after the Houdini incident.
Special thanks to Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz for the tip that led me to find the McGill Yearbooks.
Here is another Spanish-language Master Mystery Exhibitor Ad. This is a double-sided card-stock insert from Cine-Mundial, the Spanish-language version of Moving Picture World magazine.
The Main actor is Houdini
Produced by B A Rolfe
Authors are Arthur B. Reeve, C.A. Logue and John W. Grey
A series of Houdini is raising the viewer guessing
Action – Quick and sensational
Topic – Intense – Creepy
Acts of skill – Breathtaking
Uncertainty – Who keeps the interest in ever ascending scale
Emotions – That hurt and are quick to electrify the public
Release Date – Soon
Taken to the canvas by B. A. Rolfe, Inc
All foreign rights governed by EXPORT & IMPORT FILM CO., INC