Continued from Sequence B

Houdini, running furiously approaches the station and looks at Bess sitting on their trunk crying.

Bess lets Houdini know that everybody is on the train going to Philadelphia where they are to appear in a performance at the Grand Theatre, a performance and paycheck they will undoubtedly miss.

Houdini sits on the trunk beside her and shows her the handcuffs he picked up in an old shop for six dollars.

The attendant tells them they can’t leave their trunk there and that there aint no train that stops here until tomorrow.

Suddenly there is a whistle from an express train and Houdini runs out on the tracks cuffs himself to the rail.

The train grinds to a screaming halt and the conductor asks if Houdini is trying to kill himself and Houdini replies he just trying to get to Philadelphia.

The conductor tells Houdini to unlock the cuffs and get out of here, but Houdini doesn’t have the key.

The conductor looks at him in silent rage and tries to open the cuffs to no avail.

Houdini tells conductor that if he puts his trunk, wife and himself on the train that he will be out of the cuffs before he can say Philadelphia.

The conductor tells Houdini he’s won and Houdini proceeds to get out of the cuffs under the cover of a handkerchief.

Bess and Houdini are sitting in one of the seats when a porter comes up to them and tells them there is a gentleman in the parlor car who would like to see Houdini.

Bess and Houdini follow the porter into the car and approach Martin Beck, the gentleman who was so amused at Houdini’s stunt on the tracks.

Beck tells that them they are in the wrong line of business, that the theatrical woods are full of best minding reading acts in the world, but the handcuff stunt you just worked on the tracks is valuable if he can do that with cuffs that aren’t prepared.

Houdini tells Beck the cuffs weren’t prepared and he can do it with any cuffs any locks.

Beck motions to a Sherriff sitting in a chair to take out his handcuffs and clamp them on Houdini’s wrists.

Beck puts his handkerchief over them and Houdini makes short of work of them.

Beck tells Houdini to forget about the mind-reading act, that he is going to make Houdini a headliner, and to be in his New York office the next morning at ten o’clock.

The next morning, they meet with Beck who has planned an European tour in which Houdini will be billed as an escape artist, accept challenges and perform miracles of liberation.

Beck informs Houdini, Mr. Powers (who acted as advance man for Sandow and Lillian Russell) is going to act as his manager, travel with them and arrange bookings and publicity.

The next morning, the boat whistle blows and you see Beck, Powers, Bess, Houdini and Mrs. Weiss.

Bess kisses Mrs. Weiss good-bye and then shakes hands with Beck as Houdini crosses over him to his mother.

Houdini kisses his mama and she tells him maybe I won’t be here to welcome you when you come back.

Houdini tells her she certainly will, but she says you never no God’s will.

Houdini tells her that the Old Fellow upstairs better have you here when he gets back or he is going to be mad at him.

Mrs. Weiss tells Houdini not to talk like that.

Houdini reiterates she will be here and that he is going to bring her jewels, silks and beautiful things.

Mrs. Weiss tells Houdini that there is only one thing she wants him to bring and that’s a leather pair of slippers from a little shop boot shop in Hamburg like she used to have when she was a little girl.

Houdini says he will get them and Mrs. Weiss reiterates if anything should happen to her, that he must always feel that she is near him.

Houdini doesn’t answer but kisses her.

To be continued…Sequence  D


Continued from Sequence A:


Bess Riley, a very pretty Irish girl with her two girlfriends make their way down front to watch Prospero The Second’s performance.

Erich Weiss, now Prospero The Second, takes the stage and makes a hat dance off his hat and around the stage and back onto his head.

One of the girls reiterates that he’s got a wire on it.

Erich takes the hat off his head and tosses it toward Bess and her friends and as they try to catch it, the hat gets crushed between them.

Bess looks up at Erich and he tells her it is alright, the important thing is that there are no wires on the hat as Bess nods.

Erich continues his performance and makes an orange tree appear from a seed in full bloom and throws out a couple of the oranges to the audience.

He then tells the audience he is going to put an empty bowl over a bowl with rice and turn the rice into wine, but first he needs someone from the audience to make sure there is no substitution.

Bess joins him on stage and holds the bowl with rice, while Erich sets the empty bowl on top and covers the bowls with a napkin.

Bess hands are shaking and the bowls fall and cover her dress with red wine.

Erich tells the audience the red wine got here a little quicker than expected.

The curtain closes with applause from the audience.

Erich tells her not to worry about the dress or her mother that he would take care of both.

Bess and Erich approach the house in a carriage; Erich rings doorbell and Mrs. Riley opens the door and asks Bess what happened.

Mrs. Riley tells Bess to get inside and slams the door shut on Erich who leaves.

Later, Erich returns to house in an automobile with a new dress and rings door bell and Mrs. Riley answers again and lets him in this time.

Bess looks beautiful in her new dress and Erich gets the okay to take her for a ride in the automobile.

The car bogs down and Erich and Bess walk over to a wooden fence, where Erich lifts her up, sets her on it and puts his arms around her.

The two are in love and Bess kisses Erich.

Erich then remembers he has a show in an hour and helps her off the fence and they go to the car.

They jump start the car and Erich asks if Bess will come see his show tonight.

Bess says she will see it every night from now on.

Later, Erich returns to the house and rings the bell and Bess escorts him.

Waiting for him, is Bess’ father, her brothers Edward and Joseph and her mother.

Mr. Riley asks Erich about wanting to marry his daughter and Erich confirms that he does.

Mr. Riley asks what kind of magician he is and how much money he makes.

Erich takes over the scene and produces a bouquet of flowers which he hands to Bess, offers his gloves to Edward as they magically disappear, and then produces a cigar from Edward’s ear, followed by a producing a lit cigarette for Joseph which Mr. Riley slaps from his hand.

Mr. Riley asks Prospero what is real name is.

He takes a little piece of paper from his pocket, strikes a match and burns the paper. As the others watch he rubs the ashes on the back of his forearm and you slowly see the letters, “W E I S S”.

Mr. Riley thinks he just saw the devil himself, sends Bess to her room, and tells Erich there’s no place for him in the family and tells him to get out.

Erich says goodnight and tells them he hopes the dove of peace will find haven in their home, as he bows and suddenly from the folds of his coat he produces three doves that fly into the house.

Suddenly Bess comes from the side of the house to join Erich.

Erich and Bess get married by the Justice of the Peace.

Erich tells Bess that there are things she doesn’t know about him yet and that she has to swear on her life never to tell anyone no matter what.

Bess swears so help her, God!

Erich tells her that’s not enough, she has to swear on her life and her love for him.

Bess is a little worried and asks if he believes in God.

Erich tells her it is not a case of believing, but that all the things he can do himself are by the power and the will he has.

Bess tells him that God gave him that power.

Erich says he gets the power from working and is not saying there isn’t a God but so far he has been getting along on his own.

Bess swears on her life and love for Erich.

Erich takes Bess to her new home, where Mrs. Weiss is waiting with open arms.

The next morning, Erich tells Bess they have to begin to look for work and that they are going to have the greatest mind-reading act in show business that he learned from Robert Houdin.

Bess asks if Robert Houdin will mind if Erich shares it with her.

Erich says he has been dead for along time and he would like to be a man like him with his reputation and greatness.

Bess asks if they will known as Mr. and Mrs. Prospero?

Erich says no that’s not good and that he was thinking of taking Houdin’s name.

Bess suggests changing the name to Houdini because it sounds better and it really means like Houdin.

Erich thinks about it, and says they will be called The Great Houdinis.

To be continued…Sequence  C


I thought I would start February off by paraphrasing the first sequence (Sequence A) of THE GREAT HOUDINI Original Story and Screen Play by Frank O’Connor and Dore Schary, dated February 1, 1936.

I am fortunate enough to have script no. 1363 from Vanguard Films that was copied Apr 3, 1944 in my possession. It contains eights sequences (A, B, C, D,E,F,G and H) which I will try and paraphrase in future posts.

Sequence A:

Its 1896 and Prospero The Great is appearing at the Grand Theatre in New York with an Automata that sees all – knows all – tells all.

Rabbi Weiss is giving Hebrew lessons and is not happy that his 12-year old son Eric missed them again.

Mrs. Weiss asks Sophie to run downstairs to see if she can find him at Hugo Schultz lock shop.

Meanwhile, Eric extends his hands and Hugo clamps the heavy manacles and locks on the little boy’s wrists.

Sophie finds Eric, he escapes the cuffs to the surprise of Hugo, and the two leave the shop but end up stopping in front of the Grand Theatre where there are posters of Prospero and Automata. Only appearance tonight.

Eric gets a handbill and tells Sophie he wants to go tonight.

Eric gets home and his father wants him to promise that he will never go to the lock shop again. Eric doesn’t want to lie so he shakes his head No.

Rabbi Weiss doesn’t say a word but takes the boy by the hand and takes him to the closet in the living room and won’t let him out or have any supper until he gives his word.

Mrs. Weiss convinces Rabbi Weiss that he shouldn’t let the boy stay there on an empty stomach.

Rabbi Weiss agrees that is okay for him to have a roll and butter.

Eric standing in the archway between the dining room and living room overhears everything and says Thanks, Papa.

Rabbi Weiss tells Eric he is going to lock him up again and is to stay there this time.

Eric says No Papa, No lock can hold me. I know all about locks.

Eric is in bed and tells his mother he wants to go to the show tonight.

She tells him he can’t go because he didn’t go to Hebrew class.

Eric is next seen getting out of the window, going down the fire escape, and making his way to the theatre.

Eric does not have the 5 cents in his pocket, but he does have the handbill he picked up earlier.

Eric offers the folded piece of paper to the doorman and tells him he has a very important message for Mr. Prospero. The doorman says he will give it to him.

The doorman is walking toward the stage. Eric, in back of him, slips up to the stage and runs in back of some scenery and observes everything.

Prospero takes the stage and presents his Automata and promises a reward of five hundred dollars to anyone who can prove that the predictions of Automata are produced by any other means than by thought.

The curtain is now down and Prospero presses a little device and the back of the Automata opens. Prospero reaches in and lifts out a legless man, John.

Eric steps on something and there is a loud clatter.  Moments later, Prospero has Eric by the scruff of the neck and wants to know why he is spying on him.

Eric says he wont tell anybody and he doesn’t want the five hundred dollars.

Prospero tells Eric he cuts out little boy’s tongues who tell people his secrets.

Eric calls his bluff, and says if you try it, he will tell everybody what he knows.

Prospero tells Eric he was joking and what can he do for Eric.

Eric says he can give him a job because someday he wants to be a great magician like Prospero.

Prospero agrees if Eric’s parents will let him go, but needs to know within an hour since they are leaving soon.

Mrs. Weiss put her arm around the boy and pulls him close to her and says that she is afraid to let him go into the darkness alone.

Eric reminds her that she always told him to never be afraid.

Mrs. Weiss tells him to say his prayers, write every day, and that she wants him to have some money.

She tries to shake some money out of a little bank on the mantle, but can’t get any out without the key that Eric’s father has.

Eric does something to the lock and in a moment the bank is open.

Mrs. Weiss reminds him that any knowledge he will have was given to him by God and he must never use it for evil.

Eric nods his head, takes a handful of coins, grabs his little bag he had already packed, kisses her quickly and then walks out to join Prospero The Great.

To be continued…Sequence B