But there's another reason I'm flipping out over this image. This, to my knowledge, is the only known photo from Hardeen's 1936 film, Medium Well Done. The photo shows Hardeen with co-stars Gertrude Mudge, Margaret Breen and Paul E. Burns.
Medium Well Done was a one-reel Vitaphone short (Prod. #1958) directed by Lloyd French. It was shot at the Flatbush Vitaphone Studios in January of 1936 and released in April of that same year. In it, Hardeen played a "hardboiled detective" on the case of a bogus medium. A story synopsis from a Vitaphone catalogue reads:
Hardeen, brother of Harry Houdini, carries on his brother's work by exposing fake mediums.
Medium Well Done is considered a lost film. But it's possible that's just because no one has made a good search for it. Many of the early Vitaphone shorts survive, and there is an ongoing effort by The Vitaphone Project to find and restore the films. Several DVD completions of early Vitaphone shorts are now available via the Warner Archives.
Here's hoping one day someone might uncover this important piece of magic and movie history.
A big thanks to Tom Ewing for letting me share this treasure here. Also thanks to Kevin Connolly and his terrific Facebook group, CONJURING HISTORY - BUY, SELL AND TALK.