Monday, November 29, 2010

Hardeen headlines on the Boardwalk

Remy Auberjonois as Theo. Hardeen in Boardwalk Empire

After being name-checked in two episodes, Theo. Hardeen (played by Remy Auberjonois) finally made an appearance on HBO's Boardwalk Empire last night. The various reviews and recaps online have all made a point of mentioning his appearance, many drawing thematic parallels between Hardeen and the main character, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi).

Check out this opening paragraph from the recap on CultureMob:

It’s never easy living in the shadow of a giant, especially when that giant is your brother. Just ask Roger Clinton, Jeb Bush, Stephen Baldwin and Jermaine Jackson. Likewise, Hardeen will never live up to his brother’s legacy, despite claiming to teach the great Houdini everything he knew. Still, the magician earned an Atlantic City return engagement, this time performing for the city’s elite (apparently magicians were more highly regarded in the 1920’s). But Hardeen is just a disappointing imitation and if he weren’t Houdini’s brother, as Nucky Thompson told his own inferior sibling, no one would care.

And from HitFlix:

"Paris Green" opens with the image of Houdini's brother Hardeen in a straightjacket, the camera whirling around him so it's not clear if he's upside down or the camera is. It's an apt bit of visual shorthand for an episode in which so many of the central relationships are thrown into turmoil that it would be hard to blame any of the characters for wondering which end was up.


In the penultimate episode of this season of Boardwalk Empire, Harry Houdini's frequently invoked brother, Hardeen (Remy Auberjonois) finally makes an appearance — upside-down, red-faced and struggling to remove himself from a straitjacket. Later, he performs for a few guests in Nucky's suite, dazzling a smitten Margaret with his sleight-of-hand. "I knew you were deceiving me, but you managed it anyway," she coos. "Deception requires complicity, however subconscious," Hardeen explains. "We want to be deceived."

Finally, there's this good description of the opening scene from, along with a funny final line:

We open in a smoky cabaret and see a portly, bloated face in some sort of distress. The camera circles around to reveal the man is hanging upside down, rustling to get free from a straitjacket.

It's 'Hardeen' -- magician Harry Houdini's brother ("who's just as good, according to Nucky Thompson') performing. The A.C. Treasurer better think about that statement again. An emcee tells everyone the illusionist has been dangling for over six minutes.

Ever the concerned soul, Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) asks boyfriend Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) if the trick is supposed to take that long.

"Not as far as I'm concerned," Nucky answers as someone from the audience shouts, "Get his brother!"

All in all, it sounds like Dash had his first big night in the spotlight is quite some time.

Hardeen is buried not far from Houdini in the Machpelah family plot in Queens.


  1. Hardeen - the leap year baby. Touching little epigraph on the headstone there.

  2. There's a question whether he really was born on Feb 29. It's said, like Houdini, he naturalized himself and selected a birthday. Dash had a bit of a sense of humor about it. ;)

  3. Someone on Facebook just asked whether Hardeen ever actually did the suspended straitjacket, and it made me think. I can't say with any certainty that he did. I just had a look at my Life & History of Hardeen, and there's no mention of a suspended jacket escape. Also it isn't depicted on any of the Hardeen posters I can think of. I know he didn't really go in for the dangerous stuff, although he did do bridge jumps early in his career and, of course, the Milk Can (and even that almost killed him once). Does anyone know for sure?