Houdini (1953)

Directed by George Marshall
Written by Philip Yordan from a book by Harold Kellok
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental


Harry Houdini: I hadn’t prepared anything for tonight, but perhaps I have something that will amuse you. So if you’ll get a couple of broomsticks, I’ll get my wife – and we’ll see what we can do.

This is a pretty good biopic, enhanced by the charisma and chemistry of then-married Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

The story takes some dramatic license with the facts.  Young Bess (Leigh) goes to a carnival with her girlfriend’s and stands up for the “Wild Man” who is being beaten by its keeper.  It turns out Harry Houdini (Curtis) does double duty as both Wild Man and magician at the carnival.  He asks Bess out at the conclusion of his magic act but she refuses.  Later, she sees Houdini’s act at a supper club and succumbs to his charms.  They are married shortly thereafter.

houdini 2

Bess wants some stability and security and Houdini finally agrees to take a job at a company that makes safes.  His penchant for practicing his escape act on the job gets him fired.  Bess and Harry go to a magic show and Harry wins a prize when he succeeds in freeing himself from a strait jacket.  The prize is a round trip to Europe which the couple cashes in for two one-way tickets.

Houdini makes his name in Europe, at one time escaping from a British jail on a dare.  On returning home, he wants to generate interest through increasingly dangerous tricks.  Bess never ceases to worry about him, not without cause.

houdini 1

I enjoyed watching this.  Evidently Curtis was a talented amateur magician and performed a lot of the tricks himself.  He certainly has the native showmanship to convince his audience.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *