Thursday, February 28, 2013

The omen

I love it when I find a new nugget of Houdini info where I don't expect it. Here's an example from the book A Million and One Nights: A History of The Motion Picture Through 1925 by Terry Ramsaye. This is a remarkable 868 page history of the movies published in two volumes in 1926 (yes, there really was that much movie history by then).

On page 730 we find this:

In 1919 a quartet of brave conspirators met to form the Supreme Pictures Corporation to rehabilitate the status of the serial with a master effort in mystery and detective story thrills. It was to be a million dollar corporation, etc. In electing officers they decided to leave the presidency to the toss of a coin.
Louis Grossman, the business man of the party, flipped a quarter in the air. It struck the desk and rolled off on the floor.
Then the august directors of that million dollar corporation spent a half hour on hands and knees searching for the missing twenty-five cents.
The baffled searching party included John W. Grey, mystery scenario writer, Arthur B. Reeve, author of complex detective tales, and--Harry Houdini.
The corporation has faded and the quarter is still missing.

What Ramsaye calls the Supreme Pictures Corporation was eventually christened Octagon Films, and I can't help but see this comedic incident as a serious omen. Houdini not only had to sue the company for his share of the profits from their one serial, The Master Mystery, he ended up losing a great deal of his personal fortune in various motion picture ventures.

The coin was trying to tell you something, Harry.

UPDATE: It turns out Supreme Pictures was not the same company as Octagon Films. Houdini's involvement with this company might be a untold story.


  1. Nice find John! Is Houdini mentioned anywhere else in the 868 page history? How about The Grim Game?

    1. Only one other brief mention. Nothing on GG.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, this edition, released in 1986, I think, is both volumes.

  3. BTW, I fixed what I realized was a comically redundant opening sentence. I went to the school of redundancy school, you see.