|Hackenschmidt in action|
First and foremost is the discovery that Houdini’s first stab at narrative film was not the 1909 short The Adventures of Houdini in Paris (more on this later), but a lost film from 1906 entitled Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt.
The title refers to George Hackenschmidt aka “the Russian Lion,” a popular wrestler whom Houdini befriended in the UK. The Houdinis and Hackenschmidt became great friends, and Houdini even proposed bringing the wrester to the U.S. under his management.
Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt was shown during Houdini’s engagement at Keith’s Theater in Boston in March 1906. While nothing is known about the content of the film, Soloman suggests in his footnotes that Houdini’s “defeat” of the famous fighter could have been financial instead of physical. Houdini took pride in the fact that his box office receipts of £300 eclipsed the £210 record set by Hackenschmidt in Sheffield. If this were the case, it could explain Keith’s management's private assessment of this latest Houdini attraction as merely “fair.”