Thursday, April 29, 2010

The first Houdini movie poster?

Being a fan of Houdini’s movie career, I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this until now (and maybe I’m alone in this, so collectors forgive me if this is old or obvious news to you).

This English playbill, which appears on page 26 of Walter Gibson’s The Original Houdini Scrapbook and recently went up for auction on eBay (unsold), is NOT a playbill for Houdini the man, as has been represented. It’s a playbill for Houdini the movie, making it quite possibly the first Houdini “movie poster.”

Why do I think this?

According to the Nore Lodge website, Princes Hall, a variety theater on Tylers Ave in Southend-on-Sea, changed its name to Princes Picturedrome (as we see in the ad) in 1908 when it converted to all movies.

Furthermore, look at that plot description. It is CLEARLY Les merveilleux exploits de Houdini à Paris, a film Houdini made in France for Film Lux in 1909. Here the movie title has been translated as The Celebrated Houdini.

While Houdini showed footage of his escapes as part of his stage show, this is the first playbill I’ve ever seen advertising a performance of stand alone Houdini footage, and it’s the only advertisement I’ve ever seen for Merveilleux Exploits.

One wonders if fragments of this version, which probably had all the French title cards chopped off, is what’s now housed in stock film archives as miscellaneous Houdini footage (and most recently appeared on Kino’s Houdini The Movie Star DVD collection).

Pretty cool, eh?

UPDATE: I've been able to determine that this playbill is from 1916.


  1. I wonder what year the poster is from. Mar 29 was a Monday in 1909. It was a Wednesday in 1911, 1917, and 1922.