He always called them "my two girls.". RANDI: In that day, that was exceedingly daring. Pier Gustafson Perhaps that experience so much scared him that he spent a lot of the rest of his life trying to be sure he could overcome it and survive it. SILVERMAN: His whole relation to her is so sort of kidding. Of course, he did perform that night. In that day, that was exceedingly daring. They pulled so hard that they ruptured his kidney.". He was able to get a newspaper to collaborate on a charade to get themselves publicity, which is quite an interesting achievement. This is the great period of the Ziegfield Follies. NARR: Houdini escaped from a roll-top desk, a huge envelope, a giant football, even a creature from the deep. He had a gruesome collections of photographs, one of them, some of them of prisoners in Asia who were beheaded, and the heads are sort of lying around the field like cabbages. Beth Tierney NARR: The first big job for the Brothers Houdini was on the mile long midway at the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. And Houdini nodded that he could. Bess was a natural born magicians assistant, she was very petite. Ehrich and his father found work in a garment sweatshop. There are many, many pictures of him visiting graves, usually the graves of other magicians. That [laughs] really sums it up. They pulled very hard on his body. That he had only one and that it seems to have been not very happy is probably more revealing. But Houdini would not stay invincible much longer. NARR: In major cities all over the country. houdini Chris Pullman In 1904, he staged an event with London's biggest newspaper, The Daily Mirror. : After you evolve in a foreign country and youre welcomed back into your adopted America, you know, thats -- can be nothing better than conquering something that was unconquerable for yourself. It was. SILVERMAN: The psychology department invited him to give a talk on the psychology of mediumship, just the kind of thing Houdini loved to do. NARR: In 1900 Beck sent Harry and Bess on a brief tour of England. COPPERFIELD: I think when you're a kid and you do something thats a little bit out of the ordinary, whether it be magic or escapes or something like that, that impresses people, you get that reaction, a very genuine reaction of amazement, of wonder. He was afraid that that would show Houdini really how the cuffs could be opened. They named themselves the Brothers Houdini after the famous French magician, Robert Houdin. NARR: Harry was disappointed he and Bess were unable to have children. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library HIRSCHFELD: He would hang himself across Times Square and get out of a straitjacket. But the audience could see Houdini slipping out of his shoe and ringing the bell with his toes. Johanna Baker COPPERFIELD: After you evolve in a foreign country and youre welcomed back into your adopted America, you know, thats -- can be nothing better than conquering something that was unconquerable for yourself. He bought an elegant brownstone in a fashionable part of Harlem and moved in his sister, one of his brothers, and, of course, his mother. James Whitters In the slander trial which followed, he staged one of the great escapes of his career.

NARR: Houdini tried to turn himself into an intellectual. And Houdini had reached it. He had struggled for six years and was still Dime Museum Harry. Harry was now an international star. Sync Sound Stanley Palm Collection NARR: For more than an hour, the audience sat riveted waiting for Houdini to appear. There are many, many pictures of him visiting graves, usually the graves of other magicians. He would make it as difficult as possible for himself it seemed. YOUNG: He read the name and address of every single spiritualist in every city. Furious, Houdini retaliated by introducing what he described as "the climax of all my labors -- the Chinese Water Torture Cell." With the recent showing of Houdini and Doyle as a television series, I enjoyed seeing the archival story of Houdini's amazing skills. Thats where -- Everyone from America came to England. NARR: In London, Houdini astonished audiences and was hailed as "the most wonderful entertainer the world had ever seen." He grinned from ear to ear. It would be great publicity for them and great publicity for Houdini. RANDI: Once you know the secret, the whole beauty of it is gone. It was as if he never grew up, he was the ultimate aspiring teenager or child who could never quite get the recognition he thought he deserved. One of the worst injuries was: He was performing in Pittsburgh, and he was doing a rope tie. Hit me as hard as you can." NARR: By 1912, the Milk Can Escape was being copied and sold to imitators for $35. NARR: Enraged over the exploitation of his grief, Houdini began a crusade against spiritualists. His pajamas said "HH." Perhaps that experience so much scared him that he spent a lot of the rest of his life trying to be sure he could overcome it and survive it. And in a new cause -- debunking spiritualism. Some students came back to see him after one of the lectures. He swept -- Everyone met his eye at one point or another. Houdini saw the potential in the actual escape. RANDI: The last you saw of Houdini was him hanging upside-down, looking at the audience through the glass. Rabbi Mayer Weiss was educated, uncompromising, and deeply devoted to his wife, Cecelia. Library of Congress The WPA Film Library Project Administration Senior Producer Two minutes. It was also the last he ever created. His open challenge attracted the makers of packing cases, pianos, roll-top desks -- even a huge envelope. You have to keep going, you have to be really be passionate about continuing to move forward like the shark going through the water. NARR: Harry was fascinated by madness and even visited mental institutions. Les merveilleux exploits de Houdini Paris (1909), 1925 radio address on spiritualism (transcript), Houdini on the Bible, Freud, spirits, and spells, Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959), The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini (1993), Houdini!!! Houdini grew up in a family with five boys in it. Greg McCleary & Geof Thurber What is revealed -- through a wealth of old photographs, film clips, and particularly insightful interviews -- is the ardent nature of the man himself and how much he and his breathtaking feats said about America in his time. I have always had a great interest in Houdini, and actually learned several new facts about his life and career. SILVERMAN: In the wonderful picture of him at about the age of 16, he has a chest full of medals, one of which he won for a cross-country race in New York. One of the worst injuries was: He was performing in Pittsburgh, and he was doing a rope tie. He didnt like people at all. Series Editor How was he able to walk through walls, how was he able to stay under water for up to 4 days without breathing. While he was performing in some kind of beer garden there, a very famous agent named Martin Beck one of the leading Vaudeville managers, walked in and happened to see one of Houdinis handcuff escapes. There is a kind of class associated with appearing on Broadway, especially then. But the idyllic years in Appleton were short lived. As soon as he took a gulp of that air, it wasnt air. On the evening of their 25th wedding anniversary, he left her a note,"We have starved and starred togetherI love you and I know you love me.

While the audience believed that spirits were playing instruments and making objects fly around, Houdini knew immediately it was a trick. NARR: Houdini was especially preoccupied with his health. NARR: Martin Beck wired Houdini saying he could open in Omaha and get paid sixty dollars a week. The secret is actually not the best part of it, it's the presentation. : Who remembers today that Harry Houdini was the first person to fly a plane in Australia? In 1912 Harry Houdini was lowered into New Yorks East River in a crate wrapped in chains. After a life spent in pursuit of fame, Harry Houdini would now assume his place in history. E. L. DOCTOROW, Writer: Desperation was the theme of his life. Original content 2002-2022 John Cox. "Houdini was really twice married," notes biographer Ken Silverman. At McGill University in Montreal he gave a lecture, then was resting before his performance.

Thats a real medal. RANDI: Here we had sort of a man-sized aquarium. Dave Allen, Multivision That story always fascinates me, because so many of Houdinis greatest stunts are really underwater escapes. DE-VAL: He tried to tell people that he could build them up if they had lots of milk and oranges and eggs and goodness knows what. They would tie every piece of his body with ropes and chains, so it would be absolutely impossible to get out of it. NARR: Harry addressed Bess adoringly as "Sweetie, Wifie, Mine," saying he had a "bessyful of love awaiting her. Post Production None larger. "And I would hit him, but I would hurt my hand before I would hurt him.". NARRATOR: He was our greatest showman. It's really amazing marketing. SILVERMAN: Houdini broke, injured, sprained almost everything. I think when you're a kid and you do something thats a little bit out of the ordinary, whether it be magic or escapes or something like that, that impresses people, you get that reaction, a very genuine reaction of amazement, of wonder. When Harry later pasted the program into his scrapbook, he moved The Houdinis into the headliner's position.

Houdini by producer, Nancy Porter. "Hereafter I intend to work entirely with my brain," he wrote in his diary. DOROTHY YOUNG, Houdini's assistant: He told me that he thought they were wicked. Then after he did the seance, he showed the audience, step by step, how it was done. The Houdini's started out in the lowest branches of show business. Tom Kemp Because people were truly entertained. The greatest escapologist of all time. But it also proved that he didnt go in with special tools concealed in his shirt and his trousers and his shoes and what not. It was the kind of relation Houdini had with other people too.

And you really eventually, after you get success, you really want people that you respect to respect you. He collected one of the largest theater libraries in the world, wrote books on magic and pursued friendships with celebrated writers such as Jack London and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. George Eastman House I mean, he has about three expressions. McGill University Archives They joined in. And he looked out over the entire audience. Throughout his rise from unknown immigrant to international star, Harry Houdini radiated confidence and courage. In this one exceptional life story is to be found a whole panorama of fads, innovations, popular pastimes, and age-old longings that moved the country then. NARR: But nothing Ehrich could do could transform his father's life. Except, I suppose, for the legendary Merlin of King Arthur's Court, no name so conjures up the realm of magic. It is likely he had been suffering from appendicitis for several days before the punch. NARR: Harry and Bess played in the worst position - opening the second act, while the audience was still getting seated. Title Animation And no one knew exactly what was going to happen, including himself. Milbourne Christopher Collection Ehrich. Get the latest on new films and digital content, learn about events in your area, and get your weekly fix of American history. Select the department you want to search in, Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2020, Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2020, Reviewed in the United States on August 11, 2016, Reviewed in the United States on June 6, 2016, Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2016, Reviewed in the United States on September 26, 2016, Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2016, Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2016, Top subscription boxes right to your door, 1996-2022, Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. NARR: By 1918 Houdini was a cultural icon. You know, he takes all those metaphors that are our nightmares and turns them into something that he can escape from. It was part of his genius that he saw in that a presentation piece, because you appear to be totally helpless. And Houdini said his mother knew almost no English. NARR: Harry Houdini was not his real name. The following posters, advertising Houdini's performances and various tricks, have been collected by magicians, friends, and fans of Houdini. That desperate desire to turn himself into something almost superhuman if he possibly could. Edward Germain SILVERMAN: One of the times that Houdini came out of the ghost house, he asked to have his dress coat taken off. Interchanges NARR: The first big job for the Brothers Houdini was on the mile long midway at the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. The crowd of spectators gasped; reporters pulled out their stopwatches. His wallet said "HH." He had the most elaborate stationery that had "Houdini" all over it. Yours till the end of the world and ever after. She spoke a kind of mixture of Hungarian, German and Yiddish. His wallet said "HH." "Houdini takes all those metaphors that are our nightmares and turns them into something that he can escape from.". The whole idea of the spiritualist was to make the audience believe that they did. American entertainment was still very much in its kind of formative stage, but in the 1890s, it exploded. NARR: Houdini even testified against spiritualism at Congressional hearings. And when he finished the show, he collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Oct. 18: Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman released in paperback. He brought the public really onto the stage. John E. Allen, Inc. He then withdrew into a cabinet he called a ghost house and the audience waited. Coordinating Producer Grips Harry was physically exhausted. In public, he confronted our greatest fears and always emerged victorious. Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection It was simply Houdini, the King of Handcuffs. Minnesota Historical Society RANDI: He was one man who hardly had to worry about being forgotten. But his acting skills didnt hold a candle to his talents as an escape artist, and his Hollywood career bombed. Library of Congress, Rare Book Room, McManus-Young Collection
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