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Houdini (1953)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 2 July 1953 (USA)
The spectacular but tragically short career of magician and illusionist Harry Houdini whose tricks defied explanation and safety.

Director:

George Marshall

Writers:

Philip Yordan (screenplay), Harold Kellock (book)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tony Curtis ... Harry Houdini
Janet Leigh ... Bess Houdini
Torin Thatcher ... Otto
Angela Clarke ... Harry's Mother
Stefan Schnabel ... German Prosecuting Attorney
Ian Wolfe ... Malue
Sig Ruman ... Schultz
Michael Pate ... Dooley
Connie Gilchrist ... Mrs. Shultz
Malcolm Lee Beggs Malcolm Lee Beggs ... British Jail Warden
Frank Orth ... Mr. Hunter
Barry Bernard Barry Bernard ... Insp. Marlick
Douglas Spencer ... Simms - Reporter
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Storyline

The amazing career of master magician Harry Houdini is presented from his beginnings with a carnival "wild man" act to his emergence as an internationally-acclaimed illusionist, From his dramatic escape from a locked safe under the frozen Detroit River to an even more improbable one from a locked cell in Scotland Yard, he never failed to please and astound his audiences. Although Houdini's tricks are achieved through his marvelous physical dexterity and innate sleight-of-hand, he courted death with the hazardous illusions he performed and his compulsive quest to make contact with the spirit world. Written by duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

His feats of magic were GREAT! The magic of their love was GREATER!

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 July 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El gran Houdini See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie contains several factual errors, the most telling of which is the dramatization of Harry Houdini's death. In the film he almost drowns in the torture tank trick and dies on the stage in the arms of his wife. In real life he was punched in the stomach by a college student who had heard that Houdini could withstand any blow without harm. This did, indeed, rupture his appendix. He later collapsed on stage, was taken to the hospital and died there. See more »

Goofs

During the straight jacket escape competition we see Houdini focus on the center glass ball of the chandelier. First we see the chandelier all by itself with the center ball nestled in the strands of cut glass. He continues focusing on it while he is working at escaping and we see the glass ball again from a different angle with Houdini in the background only this time it's no longer nestled in the other strands but rather a little lower and more by itself. See more »

Quotes

Bess Houdini: [to Houdini] Audiences are never satisfied. They love you for th moment you please them.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: Episode #3.26 (1970) See more »

Soundtracks

An der schönen, blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), Op. 314
(uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played when Houdini performs the rope and saw stunt
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Magic Standard
16 April 2008 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Even over 80 years after his demise the name Houdini is still the standard by which magicians of all kinds are measured. David Copperfield, Rick Blaine, these guys are nothing in terms of popularity that Harry Houdini earned. The tricks he did are still being performed or attempted by magicians who want to make a name for themselves.

Paramount obtained the rights to the Houdini story from the estate of Harry Houdini from the guy his widow Bess gave it to after she died in 1943. They shelled out some big money at the time to obtain loan out services for Tony Curtis from Universal and Janet Leigh from MGM. The two of them had gotten married the year before and as a couple were getting a lot of publicity as young Hollywood marrieds. Houdini turned out to be the first of five films they did together, six if you count the joint appearance they did in the all star Pepe.

Back then, young and in love, Tony and Janet function beautifully as a team as Harry Houdini and his beloved wife Bess. Angela Clarke plays Houdini's mother who was also important in his life. What's not shown is the tension between the two women, they were not friendly. But that's one of several inaccuracies.

In fact this biographical film is mostly a work of fiction. But it's pleasant enough entertainment and it was the first film that Tony Curtis starred in that could be considered an A production. In his memoirs he recalls the experience as a pleasant one because of Janet and director George Marshall who he says was a good man to work with and an under-appreciated talent.

One thing that is shown is Houdini's interest in the occult after the death of his mother in 1920. He did in fact go around debunking fakers in the field which is field that is saturated with them. One thing not in the film is the fact he came into conflict with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and fervent believer in the reachable spirit world. That in itself would make an interesting film.

I'm sure if Harry Houdini were able to comment he'd probably say he liked the film. He'd have to wait for a more accurate film about his life in the Eighties from Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers. But I'd be flattered all to heck to think Tony Curtis was my type.


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