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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » RKO 589: Hollywood's first Houdini film (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

John Cox
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Recently I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to the Warner Bros. Corporate Archive to examine the long forgotten file on what could very well be Hollywood's first attempt to make a movie based on the life of Harry Houdini. What I found is pretty interesting (I think).

Check out Part I: "Paul Muni would make an ideal Houdini."
http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2010/11/......ake.html

Thanks! Smile
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WILD ABOUT HARRY
houdinisghost
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My uncle, Wallace Ford, promised me that when he found a script for a potential Broadway play called "The Fox," he would give it to me.
He told me the character wasn't called Houdini, but, it was Houdini.
The play never got produced.
Wally eventually realized he'd lost that script and about 200 others when his house got flooded.
Wally was starring in pictures for RKO at the time "Now You See It" was accepted as a screenplay. (the Lost Patrol and Informer, etc.)
Oursler had a hit on Broadway with his play "The Spider." It was made into a movie--twice I think.
Wally Ford had been a big star on the stage. He starred on Broadway in "Abie's Irish Rose" in the twenties, "Of Mice and Men" in the thirties and "Come Back Little Sheba" in the forties.
I think the play Wally told me about is a stage version of this picture--and I'll bet his name came up for the picture if it ever got that far.
John Cox
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Hey, Patrick, or anyone. I'm getting a message page when I try and go to the Genii forums that my account has been suspended. ??? Did Richard post anything in the thread on this? Did I do something wrong?
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John Cox
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Oh, it's not just me, looks like the whole site went down. Yikes.
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houdinisghost
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Richard was interested to know Wallace Ford was my uncle.
Wally and my Aunt Martha knew Houdini pretty well.
John Cox
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Part II: "The waters are dark for Pinetti" is up now. Some more good stuff here. Hope you all enjoy.

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2010/11/......ilm.html
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houdinisghost
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Does this mean that they were trying to end run Bessie and the Kellock book?
You know who negotiated the sale of the Kellock book to (I'm sure it was Paramount)? Ray Stark.
Chester Morris was an avid magician and really wanted to play Houdini. One of the early Genii covers is a headshot of Chet Morris that looks as if he's auditioning.
John Cox
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Ray Stark negotiated the sale of the Kellock book? I thought he came later? I actually thought it was Bessie and Ed Saint who set up the Kellock book at Paramount in the 30s, it just took a *** long time to get the movie made. I know a collector who has the original contracts, etc., re this sale. At some point I might tackle the '53 film...try and track the full development.

Yeah, I do think Oursler calling his character "Pinetti", etc., was a way to get around Bessie/Kellock. Wild that the whole under the ice sequence was to appear in the Now You See It.
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houdinisghost
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Ray was a literary agent in the thirties. He negotiated the sale to Paramount, but never liked what they finally did with it.
He married Frances Brice (Arnstein) and so producing "Funny Girl" on stage and screen was a family matter. In the 60s and 70s, he began trying to make a Houdini screen (and stage) bio.
Anthony Burgess wrote a script and later Stark had Jim Bridges writing one. And he produced that Off-Broadway musical that I think ran one night.
Bridges had me come in and meet Ray Stark back about 75. I met Ray who was with John Huston. I lost it meeting Huston, who was friendly, that big smile and all.
Nothing ever came of it. I ultimately didn't work on any of the Stark Houdini projects at all.
Zemeckis took a shot at making Ray Stark's Houdini movie, too, but the movie never got made.
That aside, I really believe that the play Wally Ford told me about called "the Fox" was a version of this "Pinetti" script.
John Cox
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Interesting! Thanks.

I wrote an article for MAGIC about all the Ray Stark Houdini movie attempts. I may post an updated version on my blog at some point.
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Steve_Mollett
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Quote:
On 2010-11-22 19:26, houdinisghost wrote:
Richard was interested to know Wallace Ford was my uncle.
Wally and my Aunt Martha knew Houdini pretty well.


Wow. I'm a big fan of the fantasy/mystery films of Wallace Ford:

Freaks
The Mysterious Mr. Wong
The Mummy's Hand
The Mummy's Tomb

He was a very memorable character actor.
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
John Cox
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A somewhat expanded version of this article is published in this month's MAGIC Magazine. Just FYI.

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/02/......589.html
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