Our friend Bill Mullins alerts John Cox and I about an article in the Rockford Register-Republic dated Wednesday, January 16, 1957 about David Thompson who had just become a fledgling member of the National Real Estate flyer’s association at the time, but of course he was no newcomer to aviation:
He was an army test pilot for 20 months in 1917-19, and was called to Hollywood by Paramount Pictures after he left the air service signal corps (ancestor of today’s U.S. Air Force). His first movie stunt flight in Paramount’s, “The Grim Game”, was nearly Thompson’s last and ended with his plane flipping over. Thompson helped found the Mercury Aviation company in Hollywood, with Cecil B. DeMille as president. And was one of the earliest airline pilots. He holds the distinction of making the first flight from the U.S. to Mexico City.
You can read the full article below for this and more about David Thompson.
Some years after the movie was released, Houdini used the final sequence (AKA “Desperate Chances”) in a vaudeville act. One night Tommy (aka David Thompson) took his wife to see the act and found that after running the clip in which the stunt man faltered and the planes locked, Houdini referred to this as his narrowest escape. He then invited members of the audience on stage. Wondering what Houdini’s reaction to him would be, Tommy joined the group. The great escapist recognized him at once and, without the flicker of a lash, identified him to the audience as “the hero who saved my life in The Grim Game.” [Hollywood When Silents Were Golden]
Of course it was really Christopher V. Pickup in the upper plane who saved Robert E. Kennedy (Houdini’s stunt double) as he hung from the rope. Tommy actually flew the lower plane.