Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harry Houdini, fashion trendsetter

In this 2009 interview about his film, Is Anybody There? (which recently made a list of Top 5 Magician Movies), actor Michael Caine had this interesting nugget of information about Houdini’s influence on other magicians...hair.

Q: Did you learn any magic tricks while doing The Prestige?

CAINE: No, I didn’t play a magician in The Prestige, you see, I played the guy who made the tricks. It was Hugh and Christian who were the magicians. No, but in this, the first thing I saw that I’d got right, was before we ever started shooting the movie, I decided to part my hair in the middle. And then I had to meet the real magician to learn the tricks, the technical advisor, and he came in, and his hair was parted in the middle and I thought I haven’t even started the movie and I’ve got something right. (Laughs) And I said to another magician, who I met later, I said, I told him that story I said, and he had his hair parted in the middle, and he said a lot of magicians have their hair parted in the middle. And I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Houdini. Houdini parted his hair and all the young magicians copied him.”

You can read the entire interview HERE.


  1. Considering his hair was pretty wiry, it probably would have looked lopsided if he did it any other way.

    These days he would have been encouraged to use "product". Lots of it.

  2. Then again, that thick, wiry hair was very useful for hiding things, no? Still, I think if he were around today, he wouldn't be caught dead with his hair parted in the middle (if only because the people around him, esp. his wife, would insist on his hair looking nice at all times). Product and styling would be de rigor, unless he just lopped all the hair off. I can't really see him shaving his head, though---he had a very big, wide head that would look weird without any hair at all on it.

  3. I've been watching The Master Mystery and I'm obsessing on his hair in that film. You can really tell the different days of shooting because his hair is so different. Very hard to tame that wiry mop. BTW, I think that most famous publicity pic of HH starring into camera might have been taken on the day he shot the Black Tom Saloon scenes. Just something about his hair and makeup seems to be a perfect match.

  4. Can I take it then that there a time when continuity wasn't a priority in film making?

    See this is why I love this place - it is possible to come in at any time of day and have a discussion about Houdini's hair. Where else can you get that?

  5. It almost seems like Master Mystery was shot in continuity. Certainly not very efficient. But this was a start-up film company based in New Jersey. They may have not had the Hollywood methods down. Heck, in 1918, I'm not sure Hollywood quite had the Hollywood method down yet.