Thursday, July 30, 2015

Juvenile star and a Yankee inventor

Here are a few more unique Terror Island newspaper ads that do their own thing. As I explained in my last post, the official Terror Island pressbook provided images, but local newspapers or theaters would somethings come up with their own ad copy and "ballyhoo."

This first ad from The Circle Theatre not only uses a rarely seen Production Cut from the pressbook (no. 9934), but I'm intrigued by how they call Houdini "the artist who has a record of never having faked the public." Do they mean in regards to doing his own stunts, or is this a reference to his stage career? Also, how about the fact that this theater stayed open until 4am. I wonder if that was typical of cinemas back then? It's also worth noting that this ad appeared on Halloween.

Oregon Daily Journal, Oct. 31, 1920.

Women played a huge role in silent cinema. Not only were they biggest stars, but women were also writers and directors. This ad below illustrates that, for the patrons of the New Strand in Madison, the real attraction of Terror Island was actress Lila Lee.

Capital Times, July 2, 1920.

Here's another ad from the New Strand showing Lila Lee as an equal in Terror Island. Lee is referred to here as "The Juvenile Star" and Houdini is "The Handcuff King." That was a name Houdini had long ago walked away from, but this just shows how he never really escaped his early fame.

Capital Times, June 30, 1920.

Finally, the ad below from the Fayetteville Observer uses an image which is not from the Terror Island pressbook. In fact, this appears to be from a different film entirely. But it still works. The ad copy––including the reference to Houdini's character as a "Yankee inventor"––comes from the pressbook.

Fayetteville Observer, August 5, 1921.

If you enjoy this kind of thing, know that on August 15th I will be giving a talk on "Houdini in Hollywood" at the IBM Ring 96 in Seal Beach. Click for details.



  1. Love these ads, especially the Lila Lee one. Speaking of Lila Lee, I just acquired an original Terror Island Movie Still of Lila Lee (318-36).
    BTW, regarding “never having faked the public”, I believe that is in reference to doing his own stunts.
    To convince the sceptic who is always ready to believe that everything one sees on the films is faked, a special notice was displayed to the effect that Houdini actually performed the hair-raising feats depicted.

    1. Congrats on the still! Love to see that.

      I was just on Hollywood Blvd and snapped a pic if Lila's star (and Nita Naldi -- they are pretty close).