Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hardeen hangs up his handcuffs

Here's a remarkable article from the January 21, 1917 Oakland Tribune announcing the retirement of Theo. Hardeen from show business. The article features a nice photo of Elsie Hardeen and their two sons, Harry Houdini Hardeen and Theodore Hardeen, Jr. Amusingly, it states that Hardeen will dump all his equipment into the San Fransisco Bay! Anyone up for an underwater expedition?

Click to enlarge.

Hardeen would continue to fill periodic engagements throughout 1917 and 1918, so I guess not everything went into the Bay. But by 1919, he really was free of the escape business.

While there certainly may be truth to Hardeen's wish to be with his family, the real reason Hardeen left his career was so he could run Houdini's Film Developing Corporation. Houdini was responsible for Dash's career -- he came up with the Hardeen name and set him up with his full act in early 1900s. I can't help but wonder if retiring and running the FDC was something Dash wanted to do, or whether it was the new edict of his older brother. Nevertheless, Dash did it, and came away with ulcers.

After Houdini's death, Hardeen retuned to performing, although this might have happened even if Houdini had lived. A letter in the Arthur Moses collection shows that Dash was on Houdini's payroll until August 1926. He would have needed to seek work at this point.

This clipping from The San Bernardino County Sun for November 23, 1926 is the earliest mention of Hardeen's return to show business that I can find. It's just a mere 24 days after Houdini's death. But maybe the most curious thing about this new item -- is that mustache on Dash?

Click to enlarge.

Hardeen continued to perform as "Houdini's Successor" for many years before turning the show over to Douglas Geoffrey a.k.a. Hardeen Jr. (not his son) in May 1945. He died a short time later.

Clipping source:

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  1. Not necessarily. It looks like his eyebrows and the hair on top of his head (and even his eyelids) have been darkened in the photo

  2. Yes, I agree with Eric that this photo has been "Sharpied."

  3. How exactly did Hardeen die? All Ive ever read is he went in for some sort of stomach operation and never recovered. But what are the details??????