Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Landrah Corporation?

Here's a mystery for the end of the month. This appeared in the November 12, 1924 issue of The Film Daily and shows Houdini formed something called the "Landrah Corporation" that year. I have no idea what this was!


The only other reference I can find is a similar incorporation notice in the October 29, 1924 issue of Variety. This one is harder to read, but it does give a touch more information, including that the business is related to "pictures."


By 1924 Houdini was putting movies behind him, so it seems odd for him to be starting any new "picture" enterprise. Or maybe this has something to do with the dissolution of his various movie companies?

This is as deep as I've gone, so I figured I'd throw it out to the research wolves. Another Houdini mystery to chew on!

Related:

18 comments:

  1. Intriguing. I did some searching variations but didn't turn up anything at all on "landrah" (name-wise or company-wise or definition-wise). It almost sounds Indian (as in India). At first I thought it might be an acronym for something, but no. Then I searched for the two gents mentioned after Houdini in the variety ad, Nathan Saland and Alfred Steiner. With Saland, I ended up right back at your blog, at a post from 1/7/2010 -- Nathan Saland was Vice president of Houdini's Film Developing Corp of NJ. That made me wonder if this was some new technical enterprise related to film (or perhaps a new incarnation of the film lab), but the variety ad specifically says "pictures" (although that could also pertain to a film lab or other facility related to film production). So while back at your blog, I searched for Steiner, and your 5/13/2018 post on mothers reminded me that Steiner was Cecelia's maiden name, so maybe Steiner was a cousin or other relative (and maybe just a business partner who put up some capital? Pure speculation, of course). No real answers. I wonder if, even though Houdini was ready to say goodbye to starring film vehicles, maybe he still saw the possibilities of film for the future, maybe films of his performances, or demonstrations, or even his spiritualism lectures? Of course he'd done some of this in bits and pieces earlier, but maybe he saw it as an outgrowth or extension or possible reinvention of his act at some point and wanted an enterprise of his own to produce such films? (John, this is your cue to say, "I don't think that's very likely!" But again, I'm just speculating. "Watch Houdini escape the Torture Cell now On-Demand or Pay-per-View!") Something related to the dissolution of his film companies, as you mention, also seems possible (but a lot less fun!)

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    1. Thanks Tom. Great work. As you were typing this I also stumbled on the reference to Nathan Saland so, yes, I'm thinking this had something to do with the FDC. Perhaps when the business folded the equipment was valued at $20,000 and a temporary business was formed to sell it off?

      Good catch on Steiner! I wonder if this was a relative?

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  2. P.S. Just saw your update about Nathan Saland.

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    1. Haha. Yeah. We discovered him at the some moment. But I cut the update and instead replied to your comment above.

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    2. Like you, I love these mysteries! I'm still wondering about the name "Landrah" since I didn't turn up anything on it at all. Maybe it's a combination of names or initials of other business partners who didn't want to be individually named, as is done so often in show business. But that probably wouldn't reveal anything more about the enterprise itself. There was definitely an incipient market for shorts that would soon come into its own in a big way in the 30s. It would've been a way to reach a vast audience without being in a starring vehicle. HH was nothing if not a visionary, but I guess we'll likely never know for sure all the things he might have been cooking up.

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    3. I was also puzzling over the name. Spelled backwards it's Hardnal?

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    4. HARDeen + Someone whose name begins or ends with "nal"?? Who knows, though it does seem like the name may in fact be "tricked." It also seems odd to go through all that trouble to accommodate a business dissolving, but who knows what the tax or business laws may have been at the time (if there were even relevant tax laws in the 20s.) Or perhaps the name is to prevent "Houdini pictures out of business" from showing up in a headline at the time, and instead letting it quietly die as the Landrah Corp? (Well, it's yet another master mystery!)

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    5. I bet the answer is in the Ransom Center papers!

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  3. Saland and Rahner Landrah?
    Jack

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  4. A portmanteau of "Saland" and "Rahner" seems plausible to me.

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  5. The State of New York Secretary of State should have incorporation records.

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  6. Steiner was an attorney, and I suspect that Houdini met him through Bernard Ernst. A disincorporation notice from Albany in 1924 says:

    "Edgar Selwyn, Inc., New York; theatrical plays; $5,000; directors, Edgar Selwyn, Samuel Maitland Goldsmith, Rae Selwyn Goldsmith; subscribers, Alfred G. Steiner, Bernard M. L. Ernst, Melville H. Cane. (Attorneys, Ernst, Fox & Cane, 25 West 43d street.)"

    Saland ran other film labs:

    https://archive.org/stream/filmdailyyearboo00film_6#page/n25/mode/1up

    https://archive.org/stream/filmdailyyearboo00wids_0#page/366/mode/1up

    So this may have been a situation where Saland provided technical expertise, Houdini provided money, and Steiner legal advice.

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  7. Thanks Bill. The fact that Saland ran other film lab is just more evidence that this has something to do with the FDC, which vanishes around this time. Recall that HH created The Weehawken Street Company as a shell company for the building that housed the FDC. This might have been another shell company created with just the lab equipment and patents, the material assets of the FDC (the building remained a part of Weehawken and thus became HH's workshop). $20,000 sounds about right for this.

    So this may have been Saland absorbing these assets into one of his own film lab operations. Steiner was probably his lawyer. Maybe Houdini would get a cut of his profits, or would still own the assets as President of this "Landrah Corp" until Saland was able to pay them off (buying him out). I'm sure it had to do with taxes, etc. But I'm almost certain this is the end move of the FDC.

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  8. One year after the Landrah Corporation was formed, The Film Daily (Nov 10/Nov 13 1925) reports that Saland has recently resigned as VP of FDC and has formed Saland Film Laboratories, Inc.

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    1. There you go. I'll bet you anything Saland Film Laboratories was created with the equipment from the FDC.

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    2. Looks like I'm wrong. The FDC equipment was sold to Seiden Camera Exchange.

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  9. FYI, I just found the following in the December 5, 1947 Film Daily:

    --Nat Saland is heading for Hollywood to make arrangements for the indie production of "Houdini, as I Knew Him".

    This is the first and last I've heard of this. One wonders if notes of some kind survive.

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