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.
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