Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hardeen's close call


In April 1935 Hardeen had an accident while doing the Double Fold Death Defying Milk Can escape in New York. He was saved by the quick actions of Jim Collins. Here is an account of the incident from The Gettysburg Times, May 6, 1935.

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Interestingly, it appears Hardeen might have has a second accident of some kind later that same year. This item appeared in the Harrisburg Sunday Courier Sun on October 6, 1935.

Click to enlarge.

Clipping source: Newspapers.com.

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12 comments:

  1. Ouch. I can hear the audience of magicians murmuring "Wow, he' s no Houdini!" or "Houdini always escaped!"

    Living in your brother's shadow, can be hard at times.

    But we here all KNOW that Hardeen was as talented & gifted as Houdini (and much more humble).

    Hats off to Jimmy Collins - a ever-faithful assistant to both brothers.

    On another note - Cox 'knocked it out of the park', last night night at the Magic Castle - his Houdini presentation was enjoyed by all.

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  2. Two things spring to mind.
    1) How did they lift the can (full of water & Hardeen) into the box?
    2) If Collins smashed the box apart, then the one that sold at auction recently was not the original!

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  3. More great never seen before infomation.

    Houdini being the great athlete and nimbler of stature was more than likely the greater escape artist. Based on everything I have ever read Houdini had the much more dynamic personality and stage presense. I am sure Houdini was the greater performer by a good margin.

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  4. The can was sitting in the box before the water was put inside of it.

    The lid must have been rebuilt.

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  5. It states that the can was placed in the box "after" Hardeen & the 40 gallons of water were in the can. Also states the "box" was knocked apart!

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    1. The man who wrote this article was a NY columnist. This article was syndicated. It's unlikely he was there in person, so he may not have the details exactly right. As stated, the can was already in the box. You can see that in the photo above. I don't think it would have been possible to lift the can into the box when it was filled with water.

      As to the hacking apart of the box. It also crossed my mind that maybe this is why there is a discrepancy in the number of boards we see in various pictures. Could have been repaired. But I also wonder if this is just dramatic writing. It would have been faster to just unlock the box. It's also possible the entire gimmick could have been revealed to the audience.

      What I especially liked about finding this article is that while I knew Hardeen had failed to escape the Milk Can once, I didn't know it was during the Double Fold.

      As to the hacking open of the box. It also crossed my mind that maybe this is why there is a decrepancy in the number of boards we see in various pictures. But I also wonder if this is just dramatic writing. It was have been faster to just unlock the box. It's also possible the entire gimmick could have been revealed to the audience.

      What I especially liked about finding this article is that I'd heard of Hardeen failing to escape the can once, but I didn't know it happened while he was doing the Double Fold.

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  6. Assuming Hardeen's failure was real and not a stunt to get press attention, my guess is that he was getting careless. With Collins as his right hand man, that escape should have been executed like clockwork.

    Hardeen had just turned 59 when he suffered this mishap. Just goes to show you that escapes are a young man's game. Houdini knew that and tried to get out with a film career. The punishment on his body had taken its toll.

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    1. Yes and the punishment for Houdini was his decision to get into the motion picture business, a dismal failure. At least Hardeen stuck with what would make him a buck.

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    2. I wouldn't call it a dismal failure. He had some success with MM and GG (at least creatively), and thank goodness for us he went into the movies because we have wonderful film of him. And, remember, Dash went right into the film business beside his brother. He ran the FDC from 1916 into the 20s. Dash didn't go back into show business until after HH died.

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  7. He had financial failure in the picture business overall and that could of occurred for many reasons. Partly it could be his acting abilities but I am sure the management of the business was difficult and something neither brother was expecting.

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    1. You are indeed right about the brothers getting in over their head in business. It was really the FDC that was the financial disaster and drain. I've heard many reasons for this, but most have to do with the experimental developing process Houdini was banking on not working out. Then he tried to get himself out of debt by some real estate maneuvers and it went from bad to worse.

      As far as his movies go, I'm not sure better acting would have solved the problem. The movies just weren't very good, and going the indie route was no easier then than it is now.

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