Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boardwalk Empire with Hardeen released today on DVD

Remy Auberjonois as Hardeen
The first season of the acclaimed HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, is released today on DVD and Blu-ray. What makes this notable for Houdini buffs is the season features an appearance by Houdini's brother, Theo Hardeen.

Hardeen is name-checked in episode six (Family Limitation) and episode nine (Belle Femme), then appears in person played by actor Remy Auberjonois in episode eleven, Paris Green. We even get to see Hardeen do a suspended straitjacket escape, which Auberjonois performed himself.

In an article for Genii (Nov 2010) Auberjonois told Jim Steinmeyer, "Before I read the script, I knew who Theo Hardeen was. I'd read The Secret Life of Houdini, the biography by Bill Kalush and Larry Sloman. At the time, I was naturally interested in Houdini himself. I think I related to him because I'm also from a Jewish Hungarian family."

For the series, Auberjonois received training in sleight of hand from Trey Lyford and was taught the straitjacket escape by Jared Rydelek. Of Hardeen himself, Auberjonois says, "The character definitely walks the line. You get an idea he's not as good as Houdini. He's defensive about his brother, and also boastful about his own contributions to Houdini's act. He's an interesting fellow, and definitely in his brothers shadow."

But is Hardeen's appearance in the series rooted in any reality?

While Hardeen became a regular performer on the Atlantic City's Steel Pier after Houdini's death in 1926, he actually wasn't performing at all during the 1920s when the show is set. Hardeen left the escape business in 1917 to run Houdini's New Jersey Film Developing Corporation (FDC), a task that proved to be more challenging than escaping from a dozen straitjackets. "It will be a Godsend for all of us if we get away from it in a legitimate manner," said Houdini.

Maybe Nucky Thompson could have helped them out?

The real Theo

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