Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16, 1975

Like so many others, my Houdini obsession began with a TV viewing of the classic 1953 Houdini biopic starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. I was 10 years old, and while I can vividly remember the details of that day, I only recently discovered the exact date.

Turns out my first magical first viewing of Houdini was 40 years ago TODAY on Sunday, November 16, 1975 at 5:00 PM on local Los Angeles television station KCOP Channel 13.

Click to enlarge.

I also recently tracked down the original TV Guide for that week. It not only has a nice half-page ad for Houdini that day (above), but it coincidently features Paul Michael Glaser on the cover. Glaser would become the second actor to play Houdini on film in the ABC original movie The Great Houdinis the following year. By the way, in the Houdini ad copy, how did the word "perhaps" get in there?


Needless to say, November 16, 1975 was a day that changed my life. In a way this viewing of Houdini was my own modern equivalent of the moment young Ehrich Weiss discovered The Memories of Robert-Houdin:

"My interest in conjuring and magic and my enthusiasm for Robert-Houdin came into existence simultaneously. From the moment that I began to study the art, he became my guide and hero. I accepted his writings as my text-book and my gospel. I asked nothing more of life than to become in my profession "like Robert-Houdin." -Houdini

Magic fans might also recognize this date a being just six weeks before Doug Henning's historic first World of Magic television special in which he famously did Houdini's Water Torture Cell. That live television event completed the one-two punch that landed me in Houdini's corner for life.

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13 comments:

  1. You know what. Oddly enough, this might be when I too first saw the HOUDINI movie. I only recall that it was really close to the first Doug Henning Special. For me it was like the 1-2 Punch! How ironic! I do know that I saw the show at 3pm on a Wednesday because that is the day of the week that there was always an afternoon movie on TV on ABC. Happy Anniversary John!

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    1. I used newspaper TV listings via newspapers.com to find my viewing. It wasn't easy. Houdini was on A LOT at that time, and because it aired on local stations, you had to find the exact broadcast region. I had to employ some deductive reasoning.

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  2. What an incredible anniversary, John. I think all of us who enjoy Wild About Harry are grateful the station aired the film when they did.

    My first real introduction to Houdini came after reading Kalush and Sloman's book. I then saw the 1953 film. But oddly enough, I think it was the Midnight Mysteries hidden object game "Haunted Houdini" that really sparked my interest. The developers really did their research, and it made me want to find out more about Harry and Bess. It was also my first opportunity to hear "Rosie, Sweet Rosabel"!

    -Meredith

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    1. Ha! I love that it was the Midnight Mysteries game that brought you to Houdini. Is the song in that game? I didn't know that. I have it, but I don't have a way to actually play it.

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    2. The game is available as a PC or Mac download, a physical disc, and as an iPad and Android app. What do you use for doing your blog?

      The song is featured heavily in one part of the game. At what is supposed to be Coney Island, you are tasked with finding the Rosabel, Believe code. You actually feed the sheet music into carousel organ, and it plays in the background as you do a card trick with Houdini. And as a special feature, you can download the track to your computer as an MP3 file. I've listened to it 494 times as of today.

      -Meredith

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  3. My intro to HH pretty much parallels John's discovery. I would also add the BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini that really clinched it for me. It aired right around the same time as the PMG biopic. There was Sid Radner demoing the escape from the full body straitjacket. Wow!

    With that Henning T.V. special featuring the USD, I was hit with a triple punch. From there I quickly bought the Untold Story at my local magic shop.

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    1. Yea, I remember the BBC doc airing around the time of the PMG movie as well. But I was a year in by then. The Great Houdinis will be the 40th Anniversary celebration for next year (October 8).

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  4. Thanks all. I had a little anniversary viewing up at my brothers house, which is next door to the house where I first saw it. I brought my lecture projector and we screened the Blu-ray on the wall. It was a blast. The movie is still such a joy on so many levels.

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  5. I thought you were referring to the PMG biopic. My bad. That was my first Houdini film along with the BBC documentary which aired sometime around Halloween of 76. Yeah--I've been a year and one grade behind you.

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    1. We'll have to nail down the exact day Truth About Houdini aired and have an anniversary post for that as well. I have the original airing on tape.

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    2. Scratch that. I don't have the first airing on tape. I have what was probably the first repeat.

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  6. Looks like the DVD is not available:

    http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2010/11/truth-about-houdini-on-dvd.html

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    1. Yeah, that was home made deal. Short-lived. It's never officially been released on DVD or VHS as far as I know.

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