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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Houdini's act (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Leslie Melville
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There are lots of books about Houdini - which one describes his 'standard' theatre performance - assuming that he had one! Was he debunking spiritualists in 1903?

Thanks in advance.
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Leo H
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No, Houdini didn't begin debunking fraud spiritualists until the early 1920s.

"Standard theatre performance" is vague. Do you mean his stage persona? I've read that he had a bold, commanding presence that worked well for escape challenges but didn't translate as effectively when he performed straight magic.
Leslie Melville
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Thanks Leo.

Most of the stuff I have read talks mainly about his on-stage persona and commanding presence but not a lot about the continuity of the act, or exactly what he did. How did he open? With card tricks and flourishes? (he claimed in his early days to have been the 'King of Cards'). I assume that there would be a section dealing with 'challenge' hand-cuff escapes, rope and chain restraints etc. followed by a big box finale ie. 'Metamorphosis' etc.

But how long was the act? What 'small' magic did he perform? Did he have support artistes?

I am working on a book that will include a reference to Houdini, who appeared in a Blackpool theatre in 1903 and I am trying to create an image of what his Blackpool theatre audience might have experienced.

I didn't think that he was actively debunking mediums at that time - that began, I believe following the death of his mother. But wanted to be sure.

Thanks for your response.
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Leo H
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Leslie--you might want to check out this blog by John Cox. It is the BEST Houdini blog out there and will get you up to speed on Harry rather quickly. This is the link to a brief bio of Houdini. After you finish reading that feel free to explore around John's blog. Your questions will be answered:

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/p/houdini-biography.html

Houdini's act changed and evolved over time. By 1900 when he became popular in London, he opened with card manipulations, handcuff challenge escapes, and closed with the Metamorphosis illusion with his wife Bess. He eventually dropped the handcuff escapes by 1908 and focused on challenge escapes from packing boxes, iron boilers, and other contraptions. He also performed the Milk Can escape which he introduced that year.
Leslie Melville
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Thanks again Leo, I'll certainly check out the blog. Judging from your remarks, my guess was pretty accurate!

Onwards and upwards!
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Pascal974
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Thanks for the link. This blog is a great resource.
Gerry Walkowski
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Have you read many of the big hardback books published on Houdini?

Milbourne Christopher wrote a few. Then there's the work of Ken Silverman and others.

I would think that many of these would have discussed the information you're seeking.

Gerry
ViolinKing
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Leslie: Programmes of Famous Magicians, available at Lybrary.com, contains the complete description of a Houdini performance.
Leslie Melville
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Thank you all! Much appreciated.

I have the information I was seeking - and know almost exactly what he performed in Blackpool - Derek Tait's book 'The Great Houdini - His British Tours' give precise descriptions of his act in the weeks preceding his Blackpool appearance (1905 - not 1903 as I erroneously stated earlier!). It is unlikely to have changed much for his performance in the holiday week commencing June 12th.

Thanks again.

Leslie
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