Friday, March 29, 2019

Tony's 273

Here's a look at Houdini's house in the classic 1953 biopic Houdini starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. I suspect this was shot on Paramount Studios' New York Street (which still exists). One thing to notice is the address, which can be seen on the press invitation as 273 W. 113th Street.

I'm assuming this is not a mistake and the production intentionally changed 278 to 273. Producer George Pal did visit Rose Bonanno at the house, so maybe this was done to protect her privacy. But I'm happy they kept it close.

Also notice the date of September 3rd. Houdini returned to America in late July 1905 and took a three week rest. If he had set up a press reception as this scene depicts, it would have indeed been in early September (near the start of the vaudeville season). It's also true that Houdini had to work to win his reputation in America upon his return.

This is what makes me love the Curtis movie and the people who made it. Sweating details like this shows respect. On the flip side, the 2014 Houdini miniseries with Adrien Brody located Houdini's house in Brooklyn for reasons I still can't fathom!

Houdini will be showing at the historic Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California, tonight at 8:15pm, Saturday at 2:30pm & 8:15pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm.



  1. This movie always gets a bad rap from Houdini buffs due to its inaccuracies. I've always loved this movie...I remember always wanting to see it when I was a kid but my parents couldn't find it at any video rental store or anywhere for sale. Now the internet would solve all that quickly, but my parents were slow to pick up on all that in the early 2000s! I remember one Christmas, I was probably 7 years old, "Santa" brought me a VHS tape of the movie. I later found out that my parents had to scour through the collections at an old mom & pop collectible shop to find it. I spent that Christmas night watching the movie with my father, the man who introduced me to my love of magic and my fascination with Houdini. Returning to this movie makes me feel like a boy again. Thank you for sharing your keen eye for details like these!

    1. What a wonderful memory. Thanks for sharing, Ethan.

  2. I believe Houdini's "273" home exterior was on the classy Washington Square block of the New York backlot, while the exterior of Mama's house, where Harry brings Bess home after they eloped, was also on that same lot but on the adjacent brownstone block. Those exteriors are beautiful and quite convincing. The fun but far less convincing New York lot at Disney's Hollywood Studios was recently demolished to make way for Star Wars Land.

    1. Oh, yeah, I forgot about Mama's house.

      Next time I'm on the lot I'm going to go in search of these and take pics. The Great Houdinis 278 facade still stands at Fox. Be awesome if this one does as well.

  3. That would be awesome; I'd love to see present day pics of those exteriors. Ironically, the brownstone block they used for Mama's house in the Tony Curtis film is closer to the actual block where 278 stands (though the Washington Square block looks more glamorous). But even in New York, I've yet to come across a brownstone that looks anything like the real 278 (although there could have been in Harry's time). It is very distinctive looking, and rightly so!



Receive updates via email