Houdini on 'Fractured Flickers'

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Postby JohnCox » 07/24/12 01:45 PM

Here's something that has been hiding in plain sight (at least from me) for almost 50 years. Until now I believed that the first time any footage from Houdini's silent films appeared on American television was in the documentary, The Truth About Houdini, in 1976. However, it turns out a nearly 3 minutes from The Master Mystery first appeared on American television in 1963 as a "fractured flicker."

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2012/07 ... stery.html
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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/24/12 05:10 PM

In 1960, ABC ran a summer replacement show (in place of Ernie Kovacs "Take a Good Look") called "Silents Please" that was to include portions of Houdini's "Man From Beyond".

It looks like the Houdini episode ran on Thursday, 9/22/1960.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/24/12 05:39 PM

Bill Mullins wrote:In 1960, ABC ran a summer replacement show (in place of Ernie Kovacs "Take a Good Look") called "Silents Please" that was to include Houdini's "Man From Beyond".


Oh really? I didn't know about that one (either). Thanks, Bill.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/24/12 05:51 PM

At least some episodes of "Silents Please" were hosted by Kovacs.

HEREand HERE are introductions to the show.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/24/12 06:02 PM

Those are great. Thanks.

Found a Silents Please episode guide, but I don't see The Man From Beyond.

http://www.tv.com/shows/silents-please/episodes/
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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/24/12 06:18 PM

Yes, the ones I found were all incomplete or inaccurate.

I got my info from contemporary newspaper tv listings.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/24/12 06:25 PM

Oh, excellent.

Would you happen to know what date The Man From Beyond aired? I might update my article.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/25/12 01:22 AM

I posted the date upthread.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/25/12 10:34 AM

Oh, you sure did. Sorry about that. Thanks, Bill! I've updated the article with this info.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 07/26/12 02:02 PM

My brother Joe and I were big Silent Movie buffs. We went to John Hampton's Silent Movie Theatre every Wednesday night. We never missed a single episode of "Silents Please."
By that time, we had seen all 15 episodes of "the Master Mystery" twice--and every episode was complete with at least 2 big stunts in each episode, and we'd seen a better print of "the Man From Beyond" than anything that is around today.
I remember the Houdini episode of "the Man From Beyond" pretty well. It was an edited down version of "Beyond" with a narration.
But the first time I saw Houdini on TV was on "You Asked For It" which I tried to never miss.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/26/12 02:13 PM

I wonder where that complete print of The Master Mystery is today? It must still be out there somewhere.

What did they show on You Asked For It?
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Postby houdini's ghost » 07/26/12 03:29 PM

They showed the packing box escape from Terror Island--or was it the now missing packing box from Haldane--and Tony under the ice.
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Postby JohnCox » 07/26/12 03:43 PM

The Terror Island packing box escape!? Maybe they were the one's who walked away with those two reels from Library of Congress.

I don't think Haldane had a packing box escape. The Master Mystery did. That's the one we see all the time -- the underwater shot.
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Postby JohnCox » 08/04/12 01:23 PM

Having now scanned through all 26 episodes, I can report that the show continued to use random clips from The Master Mystery, including more footage of the Automaton, Jack Burns, Ruth Stonehouse, and Houdini in the electric chair. However, nothing that is considered lost.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 08/04/12 04:25 PM

Here's some more early Houdini on TV:

The Washington Post ; Feb 7, 1951; pg. B13
WMAL-TV 6:45. "Yesterday's Newsreel" includes films of Theodore Roosevelt, Theda Bara, Harry Houdini, 1932 Olympics and second Johnstown flood.


Los Angeles Times, Jul 6 1953, p 24.
Producer George Pal brings a movie of the famed Houdini in his spectacular under-water escape stunt when he guests on Art Baker's "You Asked for It" show, KECA(7) at 8 p.m.


Washington Post, Jul 19, 1953 p. L5
7 p.m. WMAL-TV. The life of magician Harry Houdini and his fabulous escapes is presented because "You Asked for It."


LA Times Dec 4 1960 p B40 (listings for Dec 9)
[channel] 13; Danger Zone (30 min.) Pappy Boyington shows films of some famous freak accidents, including the collapse of the Tacoma Bridge in 1940; the crash of a B-25 into the Empire State Building; and the late Houdini is seen in one of his well-known stunts.


The 1951 show appears to be a clip show from newsreels. Prior to this, there were many other newsreel shows, and most of the listings for them didn't break out the contents. No doubt others ran Houdini footage before this one.
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Postby JohnCox » 08/05/12 01:53 PM

Great stuff! Thank you, Bill. Would love to post these on my blog, with credit to you, of course.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 08/05/12 03:31 PM

Do whatever you want with it.

I found several other listings for the 1953 "You Asked for It". One of them implied the Houdini clips were clips from Pal's Houdini film, and not of the original Harry. But most of them read as if the clips were old newsreel or movie footage of Harry.

It's possible that there were both, and it's possible that they were all Harry, and it's possible that they were all Tony Curtis. Hard to tell at this point.

But it is clear that Houdini got on TV well before 1976, and well before the 1963 "Fractured Flickers".

(and appropos of nothing at all: My son is at the age where he likes to watch the Disney Channel's "Jake and the Neverland Pirates", which is based on the Disney "Peter Pan" film. Peter Pan had Hans Conried as Capt. Hook, and the current voice actor for the character in "Jake" imitates Conried. That's Conried on the front of the DVD set of "Fractured Flickers". "FF" was produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who also did "Rocky and Bullwinkle", which also featured Conried. It's "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and the Wrongway Feldman episode of "Gilligan's Island" that I think of whenever Capt Hook appears on "Jake and the Neverland Pirates", and that's what jumped into my mind when I saw the DVD box you linked to.

And for those who don't want to spring for the DVD set of "Fractured Flickers", HERE'S the opening of the show. And HERE'S Conried interviewing Rod Serling from "Fractured Flickers." And HERE'S a clip with an escape artist.)
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Postby JohnCox » 08/06/12 09:54 AM

Bill Mullins wrote:I found several other listings for the 1953 "You Asked for It". One of them implied the Houdini clips were clips from Pal's Houdini film, and not of the original Harry. But most of them read as if the clips were old newsreel or movie footage of Harry.

Patrick mentioned above the he saw the Tony under the ice sequence on You Asked For it. But in the later ep it sounds like they showed real HH footage.
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Postby JohnCox » 09/01/12 01:00 PM

Joe Notaro has uncovered a Houdini TV appearance in the 1948 show, Flicker Flashbacks.

http://harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com/?p=717
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/01/12 04:51 PM

Why do you think these were on TV in 1948? Everything I can find about them indicates that they were theatrical shorts, shown at the theater along with serials, newsreels, cartoons, Pete Smiths, etc.

Nothing in Notaro's post, or anything else I can see, says they were broadcast that early.
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Postby JohnCox » 09/02/12 01:40 PM

Oh, you know, I just assumed this was an early TV show (and I think Joe did too?). But these were theatrical shorts? Okay, that changes things. Thanks.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/02/12 02:56 PM

I was checking to see if I had missed something. Like I had said about the 1951 reference, there are no doubt other clip shows that included Houdini, waiting to be found.

Going through them may be productive, both in terms of finding other early TV appearances, and in terms of identifying "lost" footage.
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