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Houdini (1953)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 2 July 1953 (USA)
The spectacular but tragically short career of magician and illusionist Harry Houdini whose tricks defied explanation and safety.

Director:

George Marshall

Writers:

Philip Yordan (screenplay), Harold Kellock (book)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tony Curtis ... Harry Houdini
Janet Leigh ... Bess Houdini
Torin Thatcher ... Otto
Angela Clarke ... Harry's Mother
Stefan Schnabel ... German Prosecuting Attorney
Ian Wolfe ... Malue
Sig Ruman ... Schultz
Michael Pate ... Dooley
Connie Gilchrist ... Mrs. Shultz
Malcolm Lee Beggs Malcolm Lee Beggs ... British Jail Warden
Frank Orth ... Mr. Hunter
Barry Bernard Barry Bernard ... Insp. Marlick
Douglas Spencer ... Simms - Reporter
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Storyline

The amazing career of master magician Harry Houdini is presented from his beginnings with a carnival "wild man" act to his emergence as an internationally-acclaimed illusionist, From his dramatic escape from a locked safe under the frozen Detroit River to an even more improbable one from a locked cell in Scotland Yard, he never failed to please and astound his audiences. Although Houdini's tricks are achieved through his marvelous physical dexterity and innate sleight-of-hand, he courted death with the hazardous illusions he performed and his compulsive quest to make contact with the spirit world. Written by duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

His feats of magic were GREAT! The magic of their love was GREATER!

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 July 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Houdini See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh fell in love in real life during the making of this movie. See more »

Goofs

Newspaper editor looks over layout for "whatever happened to Houdini?" article, then assigns a reporter to go out and investigate the story. This is absolutely backwards - a story of such a speculative nature would always be written first, with layout following after the fact. See more »

Quotes

Bess Houdini: [to Houdini] Audiences are never satisfied. They love you for th moment you please them.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Ta diodia: Episode #1.3 (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Perpetuum Mobile, Op. 257 (Perpetual Motion)
(uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played during the straitjacket contest
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Amusing though partially fictionalized biography based on the greatest escapist
20 July 2011 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Spectacular biography of famed escape artist dealing with the Great Houdini. At the outset, he had little success he performed in dime sideshows, and even doubled as "The Wild Man .At the same the young Houdini (Tony Curtis) enters into a passionate affair with a beautiful girl. Harry met fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner (Janet Leigh), whom he married. Bess acts in the shows , which became known as "The Houdinis." For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant. During Harry Houdini's tour of Britain in 1926, the master escapist realizes a highly publicized show. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, his manager arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini managed to interest a manager of the Alhambra Theatre. He gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the show.

It's a story with Harry Houdini, arguably the greatest illusionist and escape artist of our time. This is a mostly fictionalized biopic of Houdini's life, was made. It contains thrills, suspense , emotions, a romantic story and is quite entertaining . This film, well played by Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, has contributed, in part, to several misconceptions about Houdini's life. For example, it portrays the cause of Houdini's death to be the magician's failure to escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell. (Curtis's Houdini agrees to seek medical attention "when the tour is over.") Houdini actually developed the Chinese Torture Cell trick fourteen years before he died and performed it numerous times. The motion picture is finely directed by Geoorge Marshall.

The picture is partially based on facts , the real events were the following : Houdini's "big break" came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck in rural Woodstock, Illinois. Impressed by Houdini's handcuffs act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, Beck arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini managed to interest Dundas Slater, then manager of the Alhambra Theatre. He gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the Alhambra for six months.Houdini became widely known as "The Handcuff King." He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini would challenge local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails. In many of these challenge escapes, Houdini would first be stripped nude and searched. In Moscow, Houdini escaped from a Siberian prison transport van. Houdini claimed that, had he been unable to free himself, he would have had to travel to Siberia, where the only key was kept. In Cologne, he sued a police officer, who alleged that he made his escapes via bribery. Houdini won the case when he opened the judge's safe (he would later say the judge had forgotten to lock it). He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his "handcuff act" behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. Brewers challenged Houdini to escape from a barrel after they filled it with beer in Scranton, PA and other cities. Many of these challenges were prearranged with local merchants in what is certainly one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing. Rather than promote the idea that he was assisted by spirits, as did the Davenport Brothers and others, Houdini's advertisements showed him making his escapes via dematerializing, although Houdini himself never claimed to have supernatural powers.Poster promoting Houdini taking up the challenge of escaping an "extra strong and large traveling basket" . In 1912, Houdini introduced perhaps his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes. Houdini performed the escape for the rest of his career. Despite two Hollywood movies depicting Houdini dying in the Torture Cell, the act had nothing to do with his death. Throughout his career, Houdini explained some of his tricks in books written for the magic brotherhood. In Handcuff Secrets (1909), he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with properly applied force, others with shoestring. Other times, he carried concealed lockpicks or keys, being able to regurgitate small keys at will. When tied down in ropes or straitjackets, he gained wiggle room by enlarging his shoulders and chest, moving his arms slightly away from his body, and then dislocating his shoulders.For most of his career, Houdini was a headline act in vaudeville. For many years, he was the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville. One of Houdini's most notable non-escape stage illusions was performed at New York's Hippodrome Theater, when he vanished a full-grown elephant (with its trainer) from the stage, beneath which was a swimming pool. In the final years of his life (1925/26), Houdini launched his own full-evening show, which he billed as "3 Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed".


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