Friday, April 3, 2020

Houdini under doctor's care in September 1926?

The final days and weeks of Houdini's life continue to fascinate, largely because we keep discovering new information that kicks off fresh speculation. Much of that speculation has to do with exactly when he first became ill. Well, here's another new morsel for us to chew on.

On September 24, 1926, Houdini appeared as part of special "Midnight Benefit" show to aid the Red Cross and victims of the devastating 1926 Miami hurricane. The show was given at the Metropolitan Theatre in Boston. In the advert on the right you can see Houdini's name below Al Jolson and Georgie Jessel. Houdini was playing his 3 Shows in One for the third and final week at the Majestic Theater at this time (featuring Buried Alive).

On the day of the benefit the Boston Globe ran an article ("GREAT BENEFIT SHOW FOR FLORIDA TONIGHT") that singled out Houdini for a mention. But what's curious is the paper states he "is under the care of his physician."

The surprise of the evening will be the appearance of Harry Houdini, who promises the committee that he will show them how to extract more donations from the audience. Houdini, who is appearing at the Majestic, is under the care of his physician, but despite this handicap the mystifier will be on hand to do his stuff for this call of charity.

This is the first I've heard of Houdini being ill or injured in September 1926. This was before his accident in the Water Torture Cell and well before the famous punch. Two days earlier he spoke at an Advertising Club of Boston luncheon at the Hotel Bellevue, and the Boston Globe's detailed account of that gathering makes no mention of a doctor. Indeed, Houdini seemed to be in top form, even stating, "I'm 52, but physically I'm 35."

One possibility is this physician was with him for training purposes as this was only a few days before his second submerged casket test at the Worcester YMCA. Other than that, this one has me stumped and, of course, intrigued!

Related:

13 comments:

  1. Very interesting! According to Gertrude Hills letter, when Houdini started his [fall] tour [September 7. 1926], he was suffering from the effects of an internal injury and poisoning:
    See the comments section of the post (Houdini’s Death Officially Laid to Boy’s Blow?) that I did in 2016 for the text of the letter, along with some other thoughts to ponder:
    http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=4359

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    1. Oh, I had forgotten about that! Thanks.

      Could it have been HH was suffering intermittent illness all during this tour?

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  2. First, I read this and thought, "Maybe he caught the coronavirus while at the Red Cross thing" and then I thought, "Um, duh, Lisa."

    Second, the poor guy sure went through his share of mishaps and injuries yet he was still out there performing and I curl up in a bar when I get a sniffle!

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    1. Oops, I do NOT curl up in a BAR. I curl up in a BALL. (Though it sure would explain a lot, lol!)

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  3. Great stuff John! Thanks to Joe for that link to the GT letter on his website. I think the doctor reference in the Globe article alludes to that straitjacket injury and maybe food poisoning. Did Bess get food poisoning before September 24th?

    That Midnight Benefit handbill is interesting. The ticket price was the equivalent of $36.00, not cheap for that time. HH had more tactics up his sleeve to get the patrons to donate more money. The people who attended this show had to be well heeled Bostonians. They had 3 more years left before the good times ended

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    1. Bess got her food poisoning on Oct. 7.

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    2. Ah thanks! So we can rule out food poisoning as a probable cause for having a doctor close by. The straitjacket injury sounds plausible along with the medication supervision for the pool stunt.

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  4. It didn't really fit in the post, but Jolson was in town with his musical "Big Boy" and Jessel was doing "The Jazz Singer."

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    1. I also see Frank Fay on the bill. He originated the part of Elwood P. Dowd in HARVEY on Broadway (Jimmy Stewart later took over). And I also see "Stars of 'Pigs'" on there (at least I thinks that's what it says). Can't imagine who they were or what "Pigs" was, but is seems a rather dubious distinction!

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    2. "And many other sensational attractions" How many more acts were going to show up? A full bill at a midnight show with more slated to appear? I think that was hype.

      We're looking at the tail end of vaudeville on this bill. Golden Age Hollywood stars like W.C. Fields, Laurel&Hardy, and Jimmy Durante surfed this last wave before hitting the movies.

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  5. THANKS. Again another possible clue to him not being in his best shape going into Montreal
    Congrats to John Cox for doing this great service to the magic community for these many years. A monumental work!
    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

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