Monday, October 1, 2018

FINAL WEEK to catch Houdini on Catalina Island

This is the final week to see the exhibition Houdini: Terror on the Magic Isle at Catalina Island Museum in Avalon. The last day will be this Sunday, October 7.

Housed in the museum's standalone SAPAP Gallery, the exhibit tells the story of Houdini second Hollywood feature, Terror Island, from its conception, through its filming on Catalina, all the way to its opening at the local Catalina Island movie theater in 1920.

Among the treasures on display are original letters penned by Houdini while on location; pages from the original screenplay (above); original stills; lobby cards; magazines; the pressbook; a pair of authentic Polynesian spear handles, said to be the only known surviving props from the movie (right); and recently discovered issues of The Catalina Islander newspaper from 1919 covering the filming of the movie as well as Houdini's infamous near drowning incident in front of the Hotel St. Catherine. An authentic 1910 diving helmet, identical to the one seen in the film, is also on display.

Almost all the artifacts are being displayed for the first (and likely only) time. Among the contributors are: Arthur Moses, Mark Willoughby, Fred Pittella, Joe Notaro, Chip Romero, the Motion Picture Academy Library, and myself.

Catalina Island can be reached using the Catalina Express, which runs boats to and from the island all day long. The ride takes about an hour. Just watch out for cannibals!

Houdini, wizard of the stage and screen, was reported to have declared that Santa Catalina Island was the most ideal spot that he had ever come across, and that when he had finished his work before the footlights that he intended to come back to the island and build a magnificent home.
- The Catalina Islander, 1936

For more information visit the Catalina Island Museum website.



  1. Not sure if you are aware but Catalina Island was a popular resting place for another one of the greatest entertainers of all time Al Jolson. He even wrote a hit song "Avalon" about the place that was a big hit. Jolson stared in the original "The Jazz Singer" the first talkie made about 1926, which signaled for sure the end of vaudeville. He died a multi-millionaire and was one of the richest entertainers of all time. A fixture year after year at Shubert's Winter Garden on Broadway. He was often called by such accolades as "The Greatest Entertainer of All Time", and was reputed to be one of the most dynamic in person performers ever. Other hits include Mammy, Rock a Bye Your Baby, Anniversary Song, and on and on. He made movies, had his own radio show, etc., married 18 or 19 year old starlet Ruby Keeler when in his 40's, who he helped make a star. A movie was made about his life "The Al Jolson Story", that became one of the biggest hits of the year in the 1940's, so they made a sequel, "Jolson Sings Again". I believe they were such a big hits they looked for other big vaudeville acts for a movie, hence the Tony Curtis, Houdini movie.

    The Casino Ballroom of Avalon, Catalina Island, is located about twenty miles off the coast of the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Completed in 1929 under the direction of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., the ballroom became a significant venue for dance bands of the 1930s and early 1940s. It was designed as a state-of-the-art dance hall for the presentation of dance bands playing “sweet” jazz music.

    Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich
    The Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

    1. Not to mention Jolson was a member of Rabbis' Sons' Benevolent Association along with...Houdini. :)

      The Casino is where the museum screened Terror Island in May.