Tonight’s SentiMental moment is dedicated to Harry Houdini. The Master Escape Artist was made famous with his straight-jacket escapes, and was best known for his death-defying feats, including being chained inside of a weighted coffin and dumped into the river. His later interests in the occult, and séances, are mistakenly remembered as additional publicity stunts by him, but which were actually attempts on his part to disprove the popular mediums, frauds and spiritualists of his day.
Houdini, born in Hungary in 1874, was an ambitious, highly driven athlete, and maintained his excellent muscular condition through ardent exercise routines, and by swearing off smoking or drinking. He was also a publicity hound; if he hadn’t been, no doubt we wouldn’t still be talking about him today, almost 90 years after his death, in 1926, at age 52. He made movies during the silent era, such was the height his star had risen to by the turn of the century.
Here is a brief video of his famous straight-jacket-escape routine:
In this next video, he speaks about his infamous ‘Chinese Water Torture Cell’ (pictured, left), along with words from his wife about his failure to give her a sign after his death, though she had waited ten long years for something, some secret message from him. You can see from the photographs what an enigmatic character he was, with his glaring, wild eyes, even as his short, stout muscular physique is wrapped in straight jackets or confined with padlocks and chains
He’ll be featured here all week: on our Monday Movie, in the 1920 silent film “The Master Mystery”, on Wednesday Biography, and again with our Saturday Showtime movie, starring Tony Curtis. It has been recently announced that Hugh Jackman will be portraying Houdini in an upcoming Broadway Production (article links follow)
Curious for still more? Here is the link to the final séance, in 1939 (broadcast in 1959) of his wife and mediums trying to make contact with Houdini on the other side…
- Hugh Jackman Headed Back to Broadway as Harry Houdini (celebs.gather.com)
- A Halloween Ghost: Harry Houdini died on October 31, 1926 (themoderatevoice.com)
- October 31, 1926: Death Proves Inescapable for Even Houdini (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- ArtsBeat Blog: Jackman to Try to Work His Box Office Magic as Houdini (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)