Drifting Away From Vaudeville


amazing-under-water-scenesBefore relocating to Hollywood to fulfill a contract with Famous Players-Lasky, Houdini wrote: “I am drifting away from vaudeville, and with the exception of my European dates have no plans re[garding] a return

Scenes-From-Photoplays-30Scenes-From-Photoplays-31Once he had filled these European dates [Sailed Dec 30, 1919 from New York City to Britain] and returned to the United States [July 12, 1920], Houdini stopped performing in theatres for more than a year-and-a-half while attempting to launch his own independent film production company, the Houdini Picture Corporation


  • Magicians and the Magic of Hollywood Cinema during the 1920s by Matthew Solomon
  • The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman pages 243, 262-263

8 thoughts on “Drifting Away From Vaudeville

  1. Yes, he did see the handwriting on the wall and tried to get out. Unfortunately for him, the motion picture business turned out to be a bust. His two pronged attack, film development and acting in films hit a brick wall he could not walk through. His film development company was obviously a bad idea in hindsight, but Harry knew film was the wave of the future and that the development of film negatives would be important. I still don’t understand why he couldn’t get this company off the ground. The large motion picture companies must have built their own development labs or contracted out to companies they had faith in.

    Then there is the matter of Houdini’s own films: Beyond and Haldane. They did not turn out to be the huge blockbusters he was hoping for. A few clunkers at the box office can cause serious financial damage to a movie company. When Cleopatra tanked in 1963, it almost took 20th Century Fox down with it. The film industry has always been a gamble at the box office. It’s no surprise that the movie moguls of the 1930s and 40s were huge gamblers at the gaming tables.

    • Well said! The wave of the future didn’t completely work out the way he wanted it to. But give him credit for giving it a go. It did keep his name before the public during a time when publicity was hard to come by. And it has given us a chance today to see and gain insight into Houdini Himself.

  2. Absolutely Joe! Houdini’s films give us a chance to see what it was like to be around him. Still photos can only take you so far. His own pictures just weren’t good enough. The public knows what it wants to see in theaters and his own films were not it. In hindsight you can see that his best chance in films might have been to stick to a good director and story with a decent budget.

    He came close to playing Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Unfortunately for Harry, he tried to do all of it instead of surrounding himself with talented people. After Terror Island, he should have tried again with a skilled crew. It takes a crew of talented people to make at least a good film.

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