We wrote last week of Turner Classic Movies’ plans to present Houdini’s film The Grim Game. It was a major find and we knew there had to be more to the story. Fortunately, Inside Magic Favorite magicians Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, from the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, wrote to fill us in. By the way, we heard that Ms. Dietrich was just elected President of Assembly 160 of the Society of American Magicians for Scranton. Congratulations to an outstanding performer and great person.
Houdini made the film in 1919 but it was considered lost until recently. Mr. Brookz writes that the “only complete copy of the film was hidden in the collection of juggler Larry Weeks who got it from Houdini’s wife after Houdini died. I have known Larry since I was in my early teens. Larry trusted us and knew we would never do anything that was not in his best interest. He knew with us involved it would be done in a proper way to protect his legacy. We even put together and host his web site” http://larryweeks.info.”
Mr. Brookz said the juggler had a different perspective on his keeping the film out of circulation. “Over the years Larry invited us to see the film on two occasions. He found it odd and incomprehensible when I told him that some magicians berated him for hoarding the movie that he preserved over the years at great personal cost.”
Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz brought in their well-connect friend, Rick Schmidlin, to work as a go-between with Mr. Weeks and TCM. Mr. Weeks passed away on October 13, 2014.
The restored film will have an musical score composed by Brane Zivkovic an award winning film, television, and theatre composer. This was all done with financial help from Turner Classic Movies, who will premiere it at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival held Thursday, March 26 – Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Hollywood.
“We are so proud to have accomplished this,” said Ms. Dietrich. “To know that essentially every magician in the world big and small, will get the thrill of viewing this wonderful Houdini movie because of us. This includes future magicians for all time, as well as millions of non-magicians. It was our goal to get this to someone who would release it to the public and not hoard in their cellar or a back room somewhere.”
We owe Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz for their work in bringing this classic back. If you have not visited The Houdini Museum, you need to make plans to do so immediately. It is a wonderful experience, expertly presented by Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz. Visit their incredible site here: houdini.org
Turner Classic Movies will air its restoration of the previously considered lost Houdini film The Grim Game at its TCM Classic Film Festival in March.
Like all magic enthusiasts, we have seen the movie poster for The Grim Game and perhaps some stills or clips but never the entire film.
In fact, we were speaking with Magic Castle Librarian Lisa Cousins just a couple of weeks ago and she shared a rumor that the only remaining print might become available in the near future. She, like the Oracle at Delphi, offered nothing more; indicating but not revealing.
We are loyal TCM watchers and love learning about movies – and surprisingly do not miss the constant commercial interruptions that accompany films shown on other networks – and cannot wait to learn more about TCM’s involvement in this project.
Houdini produced this film in 1919 and stars as Harvey Hanford (see how the character’s initials are HH just like Houdini’s — we don’t think that is a coincidence), a young man framed for murder. Houdini was apparently not afraid of being type-cast as an athletic escape artist as the movie shows him escaping, leaping, fighting and other daring do. TCM relates that the film captures a mid-air collision between two airplanes that was a real accident caught on film. The filmmakers used the amazing footage in the story. We read somewhere that Houdini claimed to have been on one of the two planes even though he was safely on the ground at the time of the incident.
Surprisingly, there was only one surviving complete copy of the film, owned by Larry Weeks, a 95-year-old retired juggler. Mr. Weeks got the film from the Houdini estate in 1947 and was never willing to sell it.
“Harry Houdini is an compelling cultural icon, but most people don’t know about his movie career,” said Charles Tabesh, SVP Programming at TCM. “He made several films, but The Grim Game was his first feature, considered his best. It’s fascinating to see Houdini as an actor. It’s really fun to watch [the film] that even the most hardcore fans haven’t had a chance to see.”
TCM will screen the film in Hollywood and has booked composer Brane Zivkovic to conduct a live performance of his new score written just for the movie. TCM will air the restored classic on its channel later this year.
When we read reports on Twitter of a Syrian magician’s beheading at the hands of terrorists, we hoped it was not true.
Unfortunately, it appears the horrible event happened last Wednesday, January 14th.
According to The International Business Times:
“A street magician in Syria beloved by children was beheaded by Islamic State group militants after his performances were deemed to be insulting to God. The murder of the magician, who was known as ‘Sorcerer,’ was called ‘barbarism and butchery’ by a Syrian activist who knew him but fled to safety in nearby Turkey.”
The Daily Mirror had the original story:
“The magician was a popular man who entertained people with little tricks on the street like making coins or a phone disappear. He was just called Sorcerer by people, and children loved him. He was doing nothing anti-Islamic, but he paid for it with his life.”
According to the Mirror, the terrorists considered the magician’s tricks anti-Islamic because they were performed through “illusions and falsehood.” They claimed that their holy scripture forbid the performance of such tricks because it took time better spent by going to a mosque.
Apparently the performer was well-known to the residents of Raqqa, the Syrian city where the terrorist organization is based. He was taken during a performance and later beheaded in a public square.
We try to keep things light here on Inside Magic. Usually that is not tough to do. Today, however, it seems impossible.
The unnamed magician, his family, friends and those whom his magic touched are in our prayers.
Magician Joel Ward will be making his first appearance at Ball State University tomorrow night. He gave The Daily News an exclusive interview in advance of that appearance in which he traced his start in our wonderful craft and explained “how magic can be the greatest pick-up line.”
The article names Mr. Ward “Magician to the Stars” and it sure sounds like he has an in with the in-crowd. He is currently in the midst of a college tour and estimates he will perform about a hundred shows in 2015.
Living in Hollywood, I get to perform at some cool places. I perform regularly for celebrities. Recently, I performed a private party for Johnny Depp. That was pretty cool. And I also performed for Katy Perry’s birthday party. That was equally cool. She rented out this private club in Hollywood called the “Magic Castle.” There were tons of celebrities there and I ended up hanging out with John Mayer and Neil Patrick Harris for the night.
He counts David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Penn & Teller and Michael Carbonaro as his past and present influences and encourages folks interested in magic to check out libraries, the internet and societies like The International Brotherhood of Magicians. But, he adds, “if all of this sounds too hard, you can just buy a magic trick after my show on Wednesday. I sell a cool card trick for $5.”
We have seen Mr. Ward perform and love his energy and imagination. His show is not to be missed.
Check out the full article here.
Visit Mr. Ward’s website here.
The Session is billed as the UK’s only close-up magic convention; it is “a conference for serious close-up magicians.” This year the two-day fete was held in Cheltenham.
We have never been to Cheltenham but it sounds wonderful. According to the internet, the town “has no fewer than five festivals, devoted to Literature, Music, Science, Jazz and, perhaps most famously, National Hunt racing.”
We are not sure what category close-up magic would occupy although probably not “National Hunt racing.”
The town was made famous by its spas or the ‘waters.’ Visitors to the waters have included Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, Jane Austen and Lord Byron. We have heard of each of these people and therefore are very impressed.
We were even more impressed by the line-up of magicians in Cheltenham this weekend. Promoters listed Juan Tamariz, Asi Wind, Michael Weber, Peter Clifford, Luke Jermay, Andi Gladwin, Joshua Jay, Boris Wild, Roberto Giobbi and Daniel Madison.
But we have it on good authority – YouTube and Twitter – that David Blaine and Dynamo were also in the area.
According to the social media authorities, Derren Brown, Dynamo and Mr. Blaine went to Kukui, a nightclub on Bath Road. Danny Valentine is the manager of that establishment and told local media that the “punters” were stunned by Mr. Blaine’s magic. “He was really great and did tricks for people in his private booth. He was really nice and polite and let one of the customers play with his pack of cards.”
Just below the article about these icons of magic descending on this historic town was a link to an article that may or may not have been related to this weekend’s celebration: “Walter the dog is confused by his squeaky toy – VIDEO.”
It sounds like there was a lot of surprise and fun confusion happening. We wish we could have been there.
Read more about the event and Walter’s confusion here.