Sunday, August 7, 2011

Extreme Houdini

When Houdini came to Hollywood in 1919 to make his two films with Famous Players-Lasky, he and studio publicity men apear to have traveled around Los Angeles taking a series of dramatic photos of Harry in quintessential "Houdini-like" escape action. He was lashed to telephone poles and buzz saws, canon wheels and steam trains. I love these because it's the Houdini of the imagination, and I've come to call them the "Extreme Houdini" series. Many of these have come down through time as actual Houdini escapes and not the Hollywood fabrications that they really were. Hey, I won't tell if you don't.

Here are a selection of "Extreme Houdini" shots. Enjoy.

Photoplay, June 1920

Hollywood could never resist putting Houdini in front of a buzz saw, even 27 years after his death. In this instance it's Tony Curtis in the 1953 movie, HOUDINI.


  1. I've never seen the top photo of Houdini on the circular saw table. That's a nice one. I do vividly recall the Tony Curtis adaptation of the shot though.

  2. The buzz saw pic appears in Life Story and Pictorial Life. It's a great shot. The hanging upside-down on the train is the one that's never been published as far as I know.

  3. Yeah, where is the top photo from? It's a very cool shot.

  4. Looks like we posted at the same time, Beth. It's in Kellock's Houdini His Life Story and Christopher's Houdini A Pictorial Life. I scanned the above from Kellock.

  5. El mejor escapista de todos los tiempos con diferencia.

  6. I've updated this with a few new photos.

  7. Ive seen all of these photos in the past EXCEPT the one where Houdini is tied to the telephone poll.

  8. You've seen the railroad track one? That was new to me.

    Yeah, that telephone shot is great. Wish I could lay my hands on this issue of Boys' Cinema. Might be more "extreme" shots inside.

  9. Your correct that one also I have never seen before.


Legal Disclosure

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Receive updates via email