Sunday, June 7, 2015

LINK: Harry Houdini: Interview by Marcet Haldeman-Julius, Oct. 1925

Here's some Sunday reading for you. Larry Harnisch's excellent L.A. history and crime blog The Daily Mirror (which seems t have taken a shine to Houdini these days) has posted the full interview with Houdini from the October 1925 Haldeman-Julius Monthly. One thing I especially like is it gives a very detail description of what it was like to step inside 278. Here's a taste:

It was with a real thrill that punctually at eight o'clock on a soft midsummer evening––the fourth of August to be exact––E.  H.-J. and I drew up before 278 West 113th Street––the brown stone house which, near Eight avenue, is Houdini's New York home. The door was opened by a demure little woman who asked us if we had an appointment. Upon being assured that we had, she ushered us, in business-like fashion, into a long room rather too full of furniture, books, and bric-a-brac and lit by a single very beautiful antique, nail-pounded Egyptian lamp in which, without destroying the illusion, the soft glow of electricity had been substituted for the flames of candles. 
In spite of the chandelier the room seemed quite dark, also a bit stuffy, but the little lady––a secretary I surmised her to be––in leisurely fashion, raised shade and window, letting in with one rush of flood of early twilight, abundant fresh air, and the noisy shouts of the many children who surged at play on the street. The racket had an incongruous sound in that hushed, orderly, not to say stiff, museum-like room.

The piece also give a nice description of Houdini himself:

He is, truth to tell, an enchanting person. Yet I find it difficult to translate his charm and dynamic or rather magnetic vitality into words. There is a rare delightfulness in his personality which is far easier to feel than to define. In his makeup there is a dash of Puck and it would not be in the least difficult to believe that he had been brought up by the elves or trolls. Yet nothing could be more clear-cut that the workings of Houdini's versatile mind.

Read the entire 10-page interview at The Daily Mirror.

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7 comments:

  1. This is great! Thanks for posting.

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  2. Fantastic stuff! Thank you, John!

    Collins and HH discussing Dr. Lynn's Palingenesia, and the carpenter's appointment to see HH at 10:00 in the evening indicates that HH certainly fired on all cylinders. The window units at 278 indicate that central AC has yet to be installed.

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    1. Heck, 278 probably didn't get central air until the '80s.

      This interview really does capture a great slice of Houdini's life. A busy man. Love it.

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  3. An enchanting person.

    Have you EVER read a description of Houdini (I mean from anyone who doesn't have a clear-cut obvious sour-grapes motivation toward the man) that describes him as anything LESS than glowing terms? Anytime I encounter testimony from someone from outside of the magic world who met him, he's invariably depicted as intellectually ravenous, hard-working and honorable in his professional life - a perfect gentleman with a twinkle in his eye.

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  4. "What an actor the man would have made"...... eagerly awaiting the GG :-)
    Great article. Thanks for the link

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  5. In support of my above-point, I have an article from January, 1927 titled "Houdini, the Whole-souled Wonder Man" which contains such statements as: "With him I felt I saw a great soul face to face, as with eyes now twinkling, now gleaming with almost supernatural light, he revealed his great love of humanity." That's strong stuff.

    And this: "In his library I have seen him far into the night working and thinking - for a mighty brain had Houdini."

    Unfortunately I don't know who wrote this, although it is clearly someone who knew Houdini personally. "Mostly About People: NATIONAL MAGAZINE" is printed at the top of the page, with the January, 1927 date written in pencil next to it. Might be matter for Mullins!

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    1. The twinkle in his eye and smile...comes up all the time. And you see it in his films. Yet probably because so many publicity photos show him as intense, most modern depictions show him as very grim and serious. But that really wasn't the living Houdini. "The grinning goblin" was how one poem described him.

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