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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Doyle and Houdini portrayed in movie... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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rickmagic1
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This is, by no means, a new movie, but I happened across it the other day while renting movies to view with my daughters. It's called, "FairyTale: A True Story" and tells the story of the two cousins, Elsie and Frances, who turned England on its head with photographs of themselves with fairies. Doyle, as we know, was a firm believer, but Houdini would have none of it...though the movie portrays a different view of his opinion.

Historically, I can't find any evidence that Houdini was even involved in this situation. He did play at the London Hippodrome, although I haven't come across any evidence that he was there in 1917. If you can overlook the obvious historical errors, it does make for a fun movie as it shows Houdini performing some of his greatest feats. I felt that Harvey Keitel did a very good job portraying Houdini, and Peter O'Toole was brilliant as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Fun movie, though it takes tons of liberties with the story...
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Bill Palmer
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Yes, the people who wrote the screenplay did not let facts get in the way of a story.
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magicgeorge
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I caught that on the telly a couple of weeks ago. It was fun tosh.
Keitel as Houdini was a very pleasant portrayal. I wouldn't worry about the facts about Houdini's whereabouts as, in the film, the fairy's where real, too. I take it, it was filmed before the last girl came clean.

The relationship between Houdini and Conan Doyle has always fascinated me. Are there any other sources on their friendship?

George
Kevin Connolly
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Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship
Bernard M. L. Ernst; Hereward Carrington

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Darn, and I thought this thread was going to be about Danny Doyle and Houdini, oh well. And I agree, great Gookie, George.
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magicgeorge
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Cheers Kevin, I'm going to go and track down a copy now.

Thanks for catching the gookie, guys.
rickmagic1
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I'm reading Bill Kalush's book on Houdini right now...he has some interesting things to say about their relationship...

Rick
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MagiClyde
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The impression I got from Kalush's book was that the ONLY reason Doyle befriended Houdini was to convert him to spiritualism. A relationship based on that dynamic was doomed to failure from the beginning.
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The Kalush book really makes Doyle look bad. It showed how he wanted Houdini dead and was glad when he did die. It public he showed sadness, but behind the scenes joy. It’s a shame because he did create one of my favorite characters.
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I think that what makes the Doyle/Houdini "friendship" so fascinating to people is the fact that Doyle, having created one of the most logical and reasoned fictional characters of all time would believe in the sham that was Spiritualism, despite all evidence showing it to be a con.

In contrast of course was Houdini, a man who did seemingly miraculous feats, knowing full well that it was all a lie and trying to save innocent people from being duped out of their money and having their hearts broken even more.
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Doyle's family was marked with mental illness. His father Charles Altamont Doyle, was institutionalized for the last 17 years of his life. It's unclear what the modern diagnosis would be. His illness included chronic alcoholism and epilepsy, both of which were misunderstood at the time, but it's also possible he may have suffered from other mental conditions. This could also have been a factor in why the scientifically trained Arthur Conan Doyle would veer so sharply into the realm of pseudo science.
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Eric Fry
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Massimo Palidoro also wrote a good book about Houdini and Doyle. It is called "Houdini and Conan Doyle: story of a Strange Friendship." It is much richer than the Ernst book.
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Quote:
On 2007-10-18 15:18, magicgeorge wrote:
I caught that on the telly a couple of weeks ago. It was fun tosh.
Keitel as Houdini was a very pleasant portrayal. I wouldn't worry about the facts about Houdini's whereabouts as, in the film, the fairy's where real, too. I take it, it was filmed before the last girl came clean.

The relationship between Houdini and Conan Doyle has always fascinated me. Are there any other sources on their friendship?

George


Also see "The man who walked through walls"
Bill Palmer
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The last of the girls came clean about 15 years ago. The film is much newer than that.
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duanebarry
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Just a tidy bibliography of the books and film cited in this thread:

Film:

FairyTale: A True Story, directed by Charles Sturridge, 1997.

Books:

Houdini & Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship, by Bernard M. L. Ernst and Hereward Carrington, pub. Albert & Charles Boni, 1932.

Houdini, The Man Who Walked Through Walls by William Lindsay Gresham, Henry Holt and Company, 1959.

Final séance: the strange friendship between Houdini and Conan Doyle, by Massimo Polidoro, Prometheus Books, 2001.

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush, pub. Atria, 2007.
Review King
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The Tony Curtis film is the definitive and historically correct version to watch!

OK,. but it is a fun movie to see. So spooky and supernatural!!
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Bill Palmer
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BTW, the first time I saw those photographs, some 50 years ago, I knew right off that the "fairies" were paper cutouts. How could anybody be fooled by this nonsense?
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daav0
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I just saw the Tony Curtis film last spring up in Los Angeles, with Mr Curtis himself in attendance. It was very much fun to see it again.
houdinisghost
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Harvey Keitel hired Stanley Palm and me to teach him about Houdini.
I got him together with Dorothy Young.
In the script, Houdini is supposed to debunk the little girls. Harvey wanted Stanley and me to tell him everything we knew about Houdini and children. We told him about Houdini playing orphanages and childrens' wards in hospitals, how he and Bess wanted kids but never had them, and how he put shoes on the barefoot children of Edinburgh.
Harvey said, "I don't know how successful I'm going to be, but, I'm going to try to get them to change the script." --He didn't say about what.
Turned out, Harvey felt that Houdini would never hurt a child, so, asked to rule on the little girls claims, he says something like, "I expose fraudulent mediums who prey upon the bereaved: I don't argue with little girls and their fairies." Then, as I recall, he turns to the girls and says, "I believe in your fairies."
I have spoken to a guy who felt that was out of character for Houdini to take that position, but, I loved it. Also loved O'Toole as Doyle.
Bill Palmer
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I think Keitel captured the essence of Houdini, even though I also felt that the line "I believe in your fairies" was a bit much.

OTOH, if anyone left that movie believing that they had seen anything but well-crafted fiction based upon a true story, then maybe I could get them a job somewhere in the government.
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