Friday, February 7, 2020

Hardeen's secret movies for the LAPD

Are there "classified" movies of Hardeen doing various escapes in Los Angeles in 1915? There are if we are to believe this November 24, 1915 story from the Los Angeles Record.

Click to enlarge.

So what do we think? The first sentence says Hardeen was "the inventor of the famous handcuff act", so we're already in the realm of hyperbole. And the claim that Hardeen "invented" what sounds like slow motion photography is pretty far fetched (and this was before the Film Developing Corp). But what of the main claim that Hardeen planned to film his escapes for the police?

This was during Hardeen's 1915 tour in which he played opposite Houdini in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Hardeen's act was very much a mirror of his brother's act, so it's entirely possible that he also showed films of his exploits as a warm up. Houdini at this time was filming his suspended straitjacket escapes. So the idea of Hardeen also building up a collection of film footage, maybe sharing the same camera equipment, is feasible. Although I don't think I buy the idea of his films being shot as as a study aid for police.

Apart from the well-known Metamorphosis footage and film of an overboard box escape in Atlantic City in the 1930s, I don't know of any surviving film of Hardeen doing escapes. So wouldn't it be a treat to see this footage and witness Hardeen in action in his prime.

On a related note, you'll see Hardeen was appearing at the Los Angeles Pantages this week. Our friend Jack Cory at Houdini & Hardeen recently did a post about Hardeen's 1917 Los Angeles engagement and points out that the Pantages building still stands at 533 S. Broadway (just down the street from Houdini's Orpheum and next door to Clune's where The Master Mystery played in 1919). It's no longer a theater, but you can still see the Pantages name on the facade.



  1. The claim of being the inventor of the Handcuff act doesn't surprise me, but I don't Theo said it.

    The filming for the police is a new one for sure.

    Hardeen the "inventor" of a camera not really his MO right?

    I don't recall this photo. What's interesting is he is cuffed in a pair of Peerless Handcuffs. That's a first! And so far we have no evidence that Houdini ever added these to his Handcuff act. It's always been speculated that these newer modern cuffs we're invented after HH got out of the Handcuff game.

    Link to some 1915 Peerless Handcuffs:

    Cool find John!

    1. The Peerless Cuffs came out in 1913, I've read. Way too late for HH. He dropped the cuffs by 1908.

    2. Even though the general challenge and Milk Can replaced the "Handcuff Act" by 1908ish, Houdini kept doing occasional handcuffs escapes. It isn't until 1911 that he formally announces no more handcuffs, but even then they continue to show up. Like Metamorphsis, they were too popular to ever really go away entirely. I'm sure HH picked up a pair of Peerless as soon as they came out. In fact, we see a pair in the pics of Houdini handcuffing Cecil B. DeMillie in Hollywood in 1919. And the one's he left at McSorley's. :p

    3. Are the ones at McSorley's really the cuffs he left there? Probably not.

      Yes--in a sense the cuffs never really went away. They were part of the Milk Can and Overboard Box escape. In the Ambassador Hotel photo he's cuffed with jumpers.

      Interesting that Hardeen kept the Overboard Box escape and the Milk Can in later years. No need to invent a new escape when the old ones were too good to discard.

    4. John did a follow up story telling us that the cuffs at the bar had been replaced.

  2. Oh and I believe Hardeen would help the police. It would be amazing if he really did make films of his escapes!

  3. Very interesting. The article reads like a press release from start to finish, and while the police connection makes for good copy, it seems like a rather dubious pretext for filming escapes. But it would be lovely if they were, in fact, filmed, regardless of motive, and lying in wait to be discovered by some super-sleuth. SO let's get on that, John, okay?! (another great post - thanks!)