Sunday, December 8, 2019

Houdini's troupe seeks new work in 1926

Here is a remarkable article form the New York Daily News that ran on December 5, 1926. The article details the disbanding of Houdini's show after the magician's death and includes quotes from many members of Houdini's inner circle that we rarely see quoted, such as Jim Collins and Julia Sawyer (spelled here as Sauer). There's also mention of an assistant named Jack Arden who I've not heard of before.

I've been struggling with how to best present this in a blog post because it's just so jam-packed with great information. I finally decided the best was just to give you the full article to read for yourselves. So click to enlarge, then right click to save to your desktop where you should be able to open it full size. Enjoy!

Click to enlarge.

James Collins and Jim Vickery went on to work for Hardeen in January 1927. I don't know what became of Julia Sawyer. Some assistants unnamed in this piece, such as Elliot Sanford, stayed on and helped Bess deal with Houdini's collections. But once Bess sold 278 in June 1927, the Houdini troupe appears to have disbanded for good.

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15 comments:

  1. Jack Arden, who returned to Europe is probably Franz Kukol (Frank Williamson), who Houdini loyally protected his whole life. This has been clearly proven by Pat Culliton.
    Others who have elaborated on this fact include Houdini experts John Cox, Kevin Connolly, Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich and Dean Carnegie, and others

    Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich
    The Original Houdini Museum, Scranton PA.

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    1. Goodness, how many names did Franz need! :p

      I'm not 100% sold on the Franz/Frank thing. The man Pat identifies as Frank Williamson just looks too young to me. But there is evidence that Franz never left. Maybe he was Arden! But there are several assistants we see in pics that have never been identified.

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  2. Great article! Thanks for sharing it! Arden is mentioned in Christopher as one of the pallbearers at HH's funeral. According to Silverman he was also the guy in charge of shipping the 3 in One show props back to NYC after the Detroit mishap. Collins would wire him updates on Houdini's condition at Grace Hospital.

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    1. FWIW: Franz Kukol can’t be Frank Williamson and John (Jack?) Arden, since both are listed as pallbearers. Christopher’s source was Variety Wednesday November 10, 1926.

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    2. You're welcome John! Great catch Joe! When I read HH's funeral in Christopher, Frank Williamson's name in the pallbearer roster went right by me.

      Which girl in the photo is Dorothy Young?

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    3. She's the one holding the rabbit.

      Haha.

      She's the one next to Houdini on his left.

      I'm so sorry I never met Dorothy. Her memory seemed so sharp. I bet if she was shown this photo she would have remembered taking it.

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    4. Thanks John! Now I can see the resemblance.

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  3. At any rate it speaks volumes as to Houdini's sense of humanity and loyalty to those around him. Willing to possibly break the law and putting himself at risk.

    Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich
    The Original Houdini Museum, Scranton PA.

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  4. This is a really marvelous find and fascinating to read (even if the author's tone, just a little over a month since Houdini passed, seems a bit too flippant and disrespectful to both him and Bess and the company; they must've felt their whole worlds had shattered). The picture of Houdini and women from the troupe is really great; I'm trying to recall if I've seen it before. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. It's a great pic! I know I've seen it elsewhere, but never in really good quality. It's from the 25-26 first season, btw. There's Dorothy Young.

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    2. Kalush Laid Bare book page 287 has that photo (from the John Gaughan collection) in it.

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  5. Oh that was a very interesting read. Thanks John!

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  6. Collins and Vickery most likely made the smoothest transition out of the entire troupe. They went to work for Hardeen and remained employed. The $500 Harry willed them each wasn't bad either. It's about $7,000 in today's money. And Hardeen got his brother's best assistants.

    Dorothy didn't return for the 26 season so the end couldn't have affected her, at least financially.

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