Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Meet "Houdini's daughter"

MeTV recently aired an episode of The Carol Burnett Show in which the great comedian played the daughter of Houdini, "Flo Ziegfeld Houdini." The sketch co-starred Harvey Korman and went wrong in a number of ways. In fact, Burnett gives a special intro to the sketch explaining exactly what went wrong (a packing crate failed to break, etc.), and how they decided to air the failed sketch instead of reshooting it. The sketch is already pretty funny and madcap, and the mistakes make it all the more so (The Carol Burnett Show was famous for having performers "break up" on camera).

The show first aired on March 9, 1974. It was Episode 22 of Season 7.

Of course, I don't need to explain that Houdini didn't have a daughter, right?



  1. (Confession of a Houdini Nut): Carol had Gloria Swanson on her show once. i remember watching Gloria and my 10 year old mind thinking "That woman actually MET HOUDINI!!!" i tried not to blink because i didn't want to miss a second of staring at somebody who'd met Houdini. Somehow i missed the Houdini's Daughter episode though.

    1. Was Gloria Swanson on The Carol Burnett Show? All I remember is when Carol did her famous Gloria/Norma Desmond.

  2. Yes, the real Gloria was on the show once. She even writes about it in her autobiography, (she loved Carol's Norma Desmond act). Gloria also mentions Houdini a couple of times in her book but only in reference to him as a famous person of the time. She doesn't describe her actual meeting with him.

    1. BTW, I like how you think, Bullet. Everything through a Houdini lens. :) When I was a kid, it took me a while to connect the Gloria Swanson of Sunset Blvd with the woman who knew Houdini. I saw the young and old woman as two different people somehow.

  3. (from Swanson on Swanson, p.415): "With evident displeasure, the corset maker ran up the panty girdle in muslin first. It worked. Then she made it in snug elastic. It worked even better, although it took three people to get me into it. With the lavish confidence of Harry Houdini hearing twenty padlocks snap shut, I then raised my arms to receive the black satin cut on the bias over my head. It fit like a glove."

  4. I remember watching the Carol Burnett Show on Saturday nights with my sister, and it never failed to entertain us. It was the last of the variety shows with comedy and song and dance. When Carol did her Nora Desmond routines, it was hilarious and I had no idea she was parodying Sunset Boulevard and Swanson until many years later.

    The two Houdini/Swanson photographs that I'm aware of are on page 123 of the J.C. Cannell book, and on page 119 of the Henning/Reynolds book. In the H/R book, she's sitting in Tom Meighan's chair while he sits in hers. Swanson made two films with Meighan, Male and Female (1919) and Why Change Your Wife (1920).



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