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This English playbill, which appears on page 26 of Walter Gibson’s The Original Houdini Scrapbook and recently went up for auction on eBay (unsold), is NOT a playbill for Houdini the man, as has been represented. It’s a playbill for Houdini the movie, making it quite possibly the first Houdini “movie poster.”
Why do I think this?
According to the Nore Lodge website, Princes Hall, a variety theater on Tylers Ave in Southend-on-Sea, changed its name to Princes Picturedrome (as we see in the ad) in 1908 when it converted to all movies.
Furthermore, look at that plot description. It is CLEARLY Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris, a film Houdini made in France for Cinema Lux in 1909. Here the movie title has been translated as The Celebrated Houdini.
While Houdini showed footage of his escapes as part of his stage show, this is the first playbill I’ve ever seen advertising a performance of stand alone Houdini footage, and it’s the only advertisement I’ve ever seen for Merveilleux Exploits.
One wonders if fragments of this version, which probably had all the French title cards chopped off, is what’s now housed in stock film archives as miscellaneous Houdini footage (and most recently appeared on Kino’s Houdini The Movie Star DVD collection).
Pretty cool, eh?