Friday, January 5, 2018

Houdini's dye job

I mentioned this curious incident in my Houdini in 1918 post, but I thought it was worth sharing the source article from Brooklyn Life dated September 28, 1918. Not only are the details amusing, but it confirms the long held assumption that Houdini dyed his hair expressly for his work in the movies.

Click to enlarge.

Houdini was commuting daily between a studio in Yonkers, where he was filming The Master Mystery, and Manhattan, where he was appearing in the Hippodrome revue show, Everything. While it seems somewhat improbable that Houdini at age 44 would be mistaken for a juvenile, his dye job did shave years off his appearance, as you can see below. By the way, "slacker" back then meant a draft dodger.


Houdini continued to dye his hair for the remainder of his life. He never concealed this fact. On his 1919 passport application he wrote for hair color: "dyed black." But having left movies behind, he did again allow his sideburns to go white during his final years touring with his 3 Shows in One.



  1. Great post, John! The authorities were looking for slackers? What does that mean? Was anyone under the age of 31 crossing the Hudson River into and out of Manhattan considered a suspicious person?

    1. "Slacker" back then meant a draft dodger. I guess if you looked to be of "fighting age" (18-31) and you weren't overseas in the trenches, you got questioned. Actually makes this a bit more feasible. With his black hair and small size, maybe HH did look slackerish.

  2. I suppose HH should have pretended to be a dodger then let the Military Police put the cuffs on him.
    Would have made all the books about him just a little thicker.

  3. I understand "Houdini"now, more than ever. Concerning our looks(Hair die, white teeth, etc.. This is done for our audiences. We want to "look" our very best! Taking a shave, coloring of one's hair, should be done as our audiences are looking forward (hopefully)to a well groomed performer. Actually, I believe it enhances my performances as "anything that can misdirect the 'eyes" of the audience even for just a moment eg. my well groomed "Blackstone" appearing beard, allows the audience to tell me on numerous occasions, "Benjilini, YOU really look like a magician. This happens on and off the stage. I have ALWAYS liked your work honoring "Houdini." Keep it up...Benjilini