Houdini Biographies...

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Postby Ray Eden » 04/05/04 07:14 AM

I'd like to get some opinions of what the best biographs about Houdini are.

Thanks,

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/05/04 08:34 AM

There is only one good biography of Houdini. Written by Pulitzer-prize winner Ken Silverman, the title is HOUDINI!!!.
The others are a waste of your time and contain a lot of fictional nonsense.
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Postby opie » 04/05/04 02:18 PM

Richard: HOUDINI'S TEXAS TOURS, 1916 & 1923, by Ron Cartlidge (edited by Opie R. Houston), is an extremely well-documented account of Houdini's travels in Texas, from recently-discovered newspaper archives, from several Texas cities. There is nothing in the book which was not verified by reliable Texas-archival material from the University of Texas and period newspapers from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, etc. (As an old college English teacher, I insisted on prime-source material.)

Google should find a copy somewhere....

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/05/04 02:19 PM

Thanks, Opie, that's a good tip!
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Postby opie » 04/05/04 02:29 PM

No charge man....Look forward to seeing you at one of the conventions this year....opie
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Postby Guest » 04/06/04 11:14 PM

Ditto Ken Silverman's book.
However Manny Weltman's book, "Houdini, Escape into legend", while certainly not a complete biography, should be noted, as the information of the origins of Houdini and his family, were the efforts of years of relentless research, by Mr. Weltman, a researcher, driven to uncover the truth. It is researchers like Manny Weltman, who RESCUE magic history, from those who substitute conjecture and arrogance, for research and documentation.
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Postby Guest » 04/07/04 11:01 AM

Was there not also a good biography for younger readers? I cannot recall the title nor author, but I would like to find it for my daughter.
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Postby Christopher Starr » 04/08/04 12:09 PM

For younger readers, there's always Walter Gibson's Houdini's Escapes and Magic, a biography which I read as a kid.
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Postby Guest » 04/08/04 12:54 PM

I also seem to remember Doug Henning doing a biography on Houdini. It was called Houdini: His Legend and His Magic. It was a fairly good book.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/09/04 04:55 AM

William Lindsay Gresham who wrote "Monster Midway" and the classic "Nightmare Alley" (which was made into a classic film noir), wrote a very entertaining Houdini biography -- whether it's accurate or not doesn't matter -- it's a great read

There are also some bizarre Houdini bios, most notably the psychoanalytic, "Mind In Chains" which, I recall, argued he was trying to escape from his mother.
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Postby Rennie » 04/09/04 07:08 AM

I seem to remember an excellent book by Harold Kellock on Houdini. Of course there is so many books on Houdini and most are repetitive cannot remember any being different than another.
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Postby Guest » 04/09/04 08:04 AM

Gresham's book is valuable if no other reason than it cut away from having the reverential theme of earlier books...while admiring him greatly, Gresham looks at Houdini with his hard cynical/world-weary eye, that puts him in different perperspective. Kellock's book, "written with Beatrice Houdini", is noted as an entertaining but fanciful, "authorized" edition, that only continued Houdini's myths, as he would have wanted. Meyer and Brandon are good examples of those who won't let facts or lack of facts, interfer with what they want to try to get readers to buy into.
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Postby Guest » 04/13/04 05:35 AM

'Houdini on Magic' (Edited by Walter Gibson & Morris Young) and J. C. Cannell's 'Secrets of Houdini' are a couple of good books that give insight into the life of Houdini. These have been published by Dover Publications.

Ruth Brandon's 'The Life & Many Deaths of Harry Houdini' is a very interesting book too...
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Postby Ray Eden » 04/13/04 08:02 AM

Thanks for the hints. I'll try to find the Silverman book.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 04/13/04 01:43 PM

Ray

Go to the thread with George Dailys new book list. He has a copy at a very good price. Be sure to email George directly.

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In fact, heres a link:

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/noncgi/u ... 4;t=002284

Its book #664
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Postby Guest » 04/13/04 06:23 PM

Kellock's bio of Houdini is most definitely a whitewash, as Houdini and Bess would have preferred it.

Willaim Lindsey Gresham's 1959 Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls is much fresher, stronger in its criticisms of Houdini's foibles, but also full of interesting detail. There is an extensive bibliography of printed sources and a long list of professional magicians who offered their Houdini collections (including letters) for Gresham's use.

No one has mentioned the two books by the late Milbourne Christopher, himself a professional magician of note. They are:

Houdini: The Untold Story, 1969, is another strong book reminiscent of the Gresham book. Again, the book contains extensive lists of bibliography and a long list of professional magicians who lent their collections.

Houdini: A Pictorial Biography, 1976, is the "Reader's Digest" version, but it features wonderful reproductions of posters, handbills, photographs, and much more for those of us too young to have been there and too poor to be able to collect the real thing. Reprinted in a new edition in 1998, it should be readily available.

Richard: What inaccuracies and mistakes are in some of these older books mentioned in this thread? What makes the Silverman book so superior?

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Postby Ray Eden » 04/27/04 06:24 AM

Thanks Dustin,

I've sent an e-mail off to the fellow you mentioned. Thanks for the heads up!

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Postby Ray Eden » 04/27/04 06:35 AM

What opinions do you have about R. Fitzsimons Houdini Bio 'Death and the Magician'? The reason I ask is that Rogan Taylor used this book almost exclusively for the portion of his book "The Death and Resurrection Show" about Houdini.

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