Monday, November 29, 2021

The Houdini Picture Corporation's last stand

Here's an interesting trade advertisement that is as much an ad for the Houdini Picture(s) Corporation as it is for its latest (and last) production, Haldane of the Secrets Service

It fascinating to see Houdini promoting his film company at this particular time. The company had been formed in February 1921 with a $500,000 capitalization and a plan to produce four movies a year. But by November 1923, when this ad appeared in Moving Picture World, the HPC had only made two films and had vacated its offices in the Candler Building on 42nd Street and was now located inside Houdini's home.

Perhaps after making his distribution deal with Film Booking Offices of America, Houdini thought there might be life in his film business after all. This ad certainly seems to point to a new future. Notice how it says that "Houdini Productions" (plural) are distributed by FBO. Also remember this post about Houdini planning a film version of Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.

However, Haldane of the Secret Service would be the only Houdini Picture distributed by FBO (which would be folded into the new RKO in 1928), and this marked the last stand for the Houdini Picture Corporation. The HPC remained one of Houdini's several dormant companies until his death. In December 1936 the state of New York dissolved the corporation for failing to pay its franchise taxes.

Interestingly, the Houdini Picture Corporation did live again. In 1996 Geno Munari of Houdini's Magic Shop and collector Sid Radner revived the company name with plans to produced magic instructional videos. I'm not sure where the company stands today, but I love the logo!


  1. That Manhattan office has always been a curiosity for me. Hardeen was running things in Weehawken, so who manned that front office? HH could not have been there regularly from 9 to 5. Interesting that he hung in there up to the very end, even after Haldane flopped.

    1. Weehawken was the film lab and an entirely different business. Dash wasn't involved in the HPC as far as I know. Yes, the 42nd street office is curious. Probably not much to it. An office for HH when he was there and a secretary. It was Room 1802 on the 18th floor. Building is still there. Next time I'm in NYC I going to see if I can get up there.

    2. Actually, correction, the Film Developing Co.'s executive offices were also in the Candler Bldg. on 42nd street, so it's likely all of Houdini's motion picture companies worked out of that same room. I think Dash primarily worked from there. The Weehawken plant had a manager who oversaw the operations there. I think Dash and HH just went there as needed.

    3. Definitely--Dash must have split his time between the Candler Building and Weehawken. Back and forth. HH went to either site as needed when not performing or working on his projects. It all sounds like a stressful venture that in the end didn't repay invested time, money, and work. The films must have given Harry some publicity and widening fame. In that sense it helped his ticket sales at the box office. The financial returns?


    I wonder if the old RKO logo/intro had an influence on their Houdini Picture Corporation logo?

  3. A portion of the Candler Building is now Madamme Tusauds wax museum; the other half was the Times Square McDonald's until about a year ago. This part of the building is currently closed.