Making of THE GREAT HOUDINIS

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Postby JohnCox » 03/19/11 01:05 PM

I've always had a bit of a thing for the 1976 ABC TV movie, The Great Houdinis. Maybe thats because it aired during the first year of my burgeoning interest in Houdini. Maybe its because its damn good! But one thing that has always puzzled me is where exactly this film was shot.

Now, thanks largely to Bill Goodwin and the awesome William Larsen Sr. Memorial Library at The Magic Castle, I've uncovered the story of the making of my favorite Houdini biopic. Enjoy. :)

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/03 ... dinis.html
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Postby JohnCox » 03/21/11 11:56 AM

Holy cats! Thank you for these, Patrick. Wonderful shots.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 03/21/11 01:00 PM

Patrick -- what was Dave Steven's role in the Houdini movie? (aside from standing around taking pictures . . .)

[while trying to answer this on my own, I found out that Dave Stevens lived only 5 days longer than Houdini -- both were 52 and some 220-odd days old when they died]
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Postby houdini's ghost » 03/21/11 02:44 PM

I was on the show for four days. I had been very helpful to Mel Shavelson and he told me he'd write me in. I said, "If it's at all possible, I'd like to be able to say, 'I played Houdini's brother or I played Houdini's assistant--somebody with a relationship to Houdini."
He was a very nice man and he made me Franz.
He had brought me in 3 times to read for Arthur Ford. He wanted Bill Bixby, who was in and out and in again, and in the meantime, he loved this methody medium I did for them.
Anyway, I started the day before the three day shoot at the Wilshire Ebell. I asked Mel if I could bring a camera and he told me, "Take all the photos you want."
I called Dave Stevens. He loved magic, Houdini, Steranko, beautiful women, and he was a great pal of mine. I can't remember how much time he was able to be there during the three days, but, he was there to get the Metamorphosis, the Milk Can, and the Torture Cell. He had, of course, a steady hand and a great eye and I had neither. We were both shooting with my Canon reflex which had a fast lens, but, we were shooting available light without flash.
Dave got some good pictures. I screwed up, give or take, every photo I took--and do to this day.
Dave didn't work on the picture, he was just a volunteer, but, the guys on the picture treated him like one of the boys, and he had a great time.
Dave was one of the very best guys that it has ever been my privilege to know. Really good guy. Great talent.
Dave did posters for two plays I wrote: "Hamlet's Last Act" and Orsino and the Love Goddess." And he made me a character in "the Rocketeer" comic.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 03/21/11 03:58 PM

houdini's ghost wrote: Dave was one of the very best guys that it has ever been my privilege to know. Really good guy. Great talent.
Dave did posters for two plays I wrote: "Hamlet's Last Act" and Orsino and the Love Goddess." And he made me a character in "the Rocketeer" comic.


I got to meet and talk with Dave Stevens for 10-15 mins at a San Diego comic convention in the early 1990s. He was an extraordinary artist, and from our limited conversation, a nice guy as well. He signed a Rocketeer trading card for me (and was surprised to see his art being used in the set).

Any chance you could post the posters he did for your plays? I'd love to see them.
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Postby JohnCox » 08/25/11 01:23 PM

The original Water Torture Cell used in the film in up for auction on ebay.

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/08 ... great.html
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Postby houdini's ghost » 08/25/11 11:28 PM

The movie company had to add seven or eight inches to the top so Paul-Michael Glaser and his stunt double Eric Cord could fit in it.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/19/12 03:45 PM

This is probably only of interest to a nut like me, but I'm very excited that I was finally able to crack the mystery of the title change from The Great Houdinis (plural) to The Great Houdini (singular).

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2012/07 ... olved.html
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Postby houdini's ghost » 07/19/12 08:58 PM

You didn't mention that the script was titled "the Great Houdini" until Sally Struthers' reps made the change to "the Great Houdinis" part of her deal.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 07/19/12 09:34 PM

I've been looking for the script Mel personally handed me. It had purple covers and I think it was titled "the Great Houdini." If I sold it, and i think I may have, it would have been to either Kevin Connolly or Arthur Moses.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 07/19/12 09:49 PM

I don't remember it, sorry. I do have Ruth Gordon's contract from the movie and some promotional stills.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 07/20/12 12:28 AM

If Arthur doesn't have it, it must be here. I distinctly remember looking at the title, "the Great Houdini," and asking Mel about it and he telling me the title change came about when Sally came onto the film. It didn't surprise me then when later releases of the film reverted back to Mel's original title.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/20/12 09:18 AM

Yes, there is an earlier script with the title The Great Houdini in the Castle library. I have a pic of both script covers with the two titles right at the start of my 'Making Of 'article here:

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/03 ... dinis.html

That's awesome info about the title being changed for Sally Struthers. I never knew that! I actually like The Great Houdinis title better.
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