Part Two TONIGHT at 9/8c on HISTORY

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Houdini in 1950

Last week I did a post about Houdini's "Radio of 1950" illusion. Today I thought I would be interesting to follow up with a look at Houdini in 1950. This article by Lloyd E. Jones appeared in the magic magazine, The Bat (No. 83, November 1950), and assessed Houdini's fame and legacy at the half-century mark.

Not only does this article feature a photo of Houdini in Oakland that I've never seen, but it's a nice gauge of the magic community's feelings about Houdini at this time. It's filled with the same kind of backhanded praise that one stills hears today. It's also fun to read that "Hollywood still talks of a picture of his life." Of course, only three years later, Paramount's Houdini would be made with Tony Curtis, and would do much to propel Houdini as the most famous name in magic for the second half of the century.

Click to enlarge.

It's now 50+ years later and things haven't much changed. Houdini was clearly The 20th Century's Man of Magic, and he's now marching his way comfortably through the 21st Century. As the article says, "There is no use butting one's head against such a solid wall."

You can read this entire issue via The Conjuring Arts Research Center's amazing Ask Alexander search engine.

11 comments:

  1. That's an interesting photo of Houdini. The likes of which I've never seen before. He seems to be bonding with the police officers...a little too much?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. You know, that didn't occur to me until you said it. It is a bit cozy.

      Delete
  2. The officer behind Houdini has his hands around his waist, and the officer in front is embracing him. Houdini is also holding the front officer by his arms. What the heck is going on here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are they frisking him? Searching him before an escape? Or maybe they are about to lay him down on some kind of escape apparatus. I don't know. It is very odd.

      Delete
    2. Oh! It says right under the photo -- the caption. They are searching him before a suspended straitjacket escape.

      Delete
  3. Yes, I eventually discovered the caption under the photo. It looks staged but they are supposed to be searching Houdini before the suspended straitjacket escape. It would have looked more like a search if Houdini's arms were outstretched to facilitate matters. But they aren't...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Searching him before a straightjacket escape? What are they looking for?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Something he could use to cut himself out?

      I'm sure it's all for show. Some of these suspended jacket escapes were publicized as "challenges" from local police.

      Delete
  5. BTW, that shot of him upside down is a pretty famous shot. It's nice to have it identified as being Oakland. Not sure I've ever seen the location credited before.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great article. A real snap-shot of the time and community: "...long remembered by those fortunate to recall the days of vaudeville."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, This article solved the mystery of the location. I'm pretty sure it's Oakland too. Both buildings behind Houdini look similar.

    ReplyDelete

Translate

Receive updates via email