Thursday, March 22, 2018

Houdini's madcap Hollywood lunch

This photo of Houdini and comedy great Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is well-known, but few know the story behind it. This photo was taken on July 27, 1919 at the Comique Studio in Edendale, CA during the production of Back Stage, a short directed by Arbuckle co-starring Buster Keaton. Houdini is using his hat to conceal a cast on his broken wrist.

Below is a newspaper account of a luncheon that followed. I'm pretty sure this oh-so-zany lunch only happened in the mind of the publicist who wrote this. Nevertheless, it's vintage silent era Hollywood hi-jinks, so enjoy.

Sake Lake Herald Republican Sun, Aug. 10, 1919.

Back Stage is available on YouTube. The Taylor (?) trunk and weights that can seen in the photo come into play around the 19 minute mark. Shame there's no cameo by Houdini!

Houdini and Arbuckle seemed to enjoy each other's company as Houdini visited the comedian again at the Henry Lehrman studio in Culver City later that same year, and Arbuckle was one of the guests at Harry and Bess's 25th Anniversary dinner at the Alexandra Hotel on June 22. And, of course, there was that Bebe Daniels gag.



  1. Quite a fanciful luncheon account -- Houdini usurped by an upside-down Buster Keaton hanging by his toes! Pretty funny stuff; it makes me wonder if Houdini would have eventually found his way into a silent screen comedy! (Na!)I've always wondered about that photo and the unusual juxtaposition of Fatty and Houdini, so thanks for the insight!

    1. Bess and Julie Karcher were also part of this gathering. There is a photo of the entire group in the Henning book.

  2. You know, I only found out YESTERDAY that Houdini and Arbuckle share a birthday!

  3. I wonder what Harry thought about the scandal Arbuckle went thru over the death of actress Virginia Rappe in 1921.

    1. I general I'm surprised and sorry we don't have Houdini's reactions to a lot of the notable events of the time: the Arbuckle trial, the sinking of the Titanic, King Tut's tomb, Evelyn Nesbit/Stanford White, the San Fransisco earthquake, etc. However, I did find a clipping that says he gave a talk about the Teapot Dome scandal.


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