RKO 589: Hollywood's first Houdini film

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby JohnCox » 11/22/10 11:35 AM

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. At least it's the earliest I've heard. What I found is pretty interesting (I think).

Check out Part I: "Paul Muni would make an ideal Houdini."

Thanks! :)
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Postby JohnCox » 11/22/10 12:42 PM

Oh, and please feel free to comment on the article if you like. You don't need to register or put in an email address or anything. I've even turned off the CAPTCHA (I can never make those darn things out).
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Postby houdini's ghost » 11/22/10 04:20 PM

I have been posting this on other sites, but, my uncle, Wallace Ford, had, I am positive from what he told me, a version of this script which was intended for Broadway.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/22/10 04:42 PM

Wally Ford was your uncle?
Wally Ford who was in Freaks?
Wally Ford who was in Mummy movies?
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Postby houdini's ghost » 11/22/10 06:21 PM

Yes! He's Phroso the clown in Freaks and Babe in those two mummy films. Along those lines, he was in "the Ape-Man" with Lugosi.
He is marvelous in two pictures in which he played Shelley Winters father: "He Ran All The Way," John Garfield's last picture; and "A Patch Of Blue," which was Wally's last picture.
He was wonderful in "Harvey," as the informee in "the Informer," and a picture with Helen Twelvetrees and avid magician Victor Jory called "My Woman."
Well, he always delivered. I was exceptionally lucky to have known him as long as I did. He died in 1966.
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Postby JohnCox » 11/23/10 12:35 PM

Wow, I never knew Wally Ford was your uncle. You're a fountain of fascinating information, ghost. :)
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 11/23/10 04:37 PM

Pat, didn't you tell me that your aunt - Wallace Ford's wife - received a telephone call from Thelma Todd AFTER the police claimed Thelma was already dead? And that this tended to illustrate that Thelma Todd did not die peacefully of carbon monoxide poisoning in her own car on one night, but murderously on the next? The LA police of that era were so corrupt that it now seems impossible to figure out "what really happened" in that case, as well as many others.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 11/23/10 10:45 PM

Yes. My Aunt Martha was very honest and smart. She had absolutely no reason to tell me some old story she made up.
Back around 1960, Martha (Haworth) Ford told me that she received a telephone call from Thelma Todd the afternoon after Todd was supposed to have died. Thelma told her she was coming to the party Martha and Wally were throwing. They had a little ranch on Laurel Canyon Blvd. in what is now Studio City.
There was a witness who claims she saw Thelma Todd make that call from a phone booth on Sunset Blvd. --Martha didn't tell me about that. Just her part.
We were talking about Thelma Todd and she said, "I was the last person to speak to her."
The police interrogated Martha for a long time, 13 hours or something. How long it was I don't quite remember. I don't think they ever got anything different out of her, but, my mother told me that somebody threw a scare into Martha and she didn't talk about it for years. Or ever--it just happened to come up because I knew she and Thelma Todd had been friends and we were talking about her comedy work with the Marx Bros. and Laurel and Hardy and Martha told me about the phone call.
Martha Ford and I were great pals. Again, she was an honest. and straightforward person. I am convinced that she was convinced she had spoken with "Hot Toddy" hours after the coroner said she had died.
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Postby JohnCox » 11/24/10 11:23 AM

Wow, that's fascinating, Patrick.

BTW, Part II: "The waters are dark for Pinetti" is up now. Some more good stuff here. Hope you all enjoy.
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Postby Mark W. Nelson » 01/07/11 06:02 PM

Some of my favorite Wallace Ford quotes from THE MUMMY'S HAND:

"I was practicing my Rock Trick!"

"If it isn't the jackals, it's the desert, if it isn't the desert, it's the mummy, if it isn't the mummy, it's you."

(That last may be wrong -- it's all from memory after all.)

My favorite "Kharis" mummy movie because of Ford, and Dick Foran, and Peggy Moran, Cecil Kellaway and George Zucco -- what a great cast and they all seemed to be having a great time.

Peggy Moran came to our Magic Castle Awards Show in 2001, when Bela Lugosi, Jr. and Sara Karloff were presenters.
Best,

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Postby JohnCox » 02/04/11 01:17 PM

Sorry for the non-Genii plug here, but an expanded version of my article is in this month's MAGIC.

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