Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

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JohnCox
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Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby JohnCox » November 21st, 2015, 12:22 pm

It was 100 years ago this week that Houdini and Hardeen both opened in Oakland, California. The brothers played out the Thanksgiving week in direct competition with each other in theaters that were only a few blocks apart. Who won the battle of the Handcuff Kings?

I had a lot of fun writing and researching this one, so I thought I'd share here. One thing I found very surprising was that Houdini was performing the cut and restored turban during this 1915 engagement.

Link to my blog below. Please enjoy:
http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2015/11 ... kland.html
Visit my blog Wild About Harry

Chuck Romano
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Re: Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby Chuck Romano » November 21st, 2015, 12:45 pm

Very interesting and informative, John. Keep up the good work!

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JohnCox
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Re: Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby JohnCox » November 21st, 2015, 12:48 pm

Thanks Chuck!
Visit my blog Wild About Harry

Leonard Hevia
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Re: Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby Leonard Hevia » November 21st, 2015, 1:35 pm

JohnCox wrote:One thing I found very surprising was that Houdini was performing the cut and restored turban during this 1915 engagement.

Link to my blog below. Please enjoy:
http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2015/11 ... kland.html


In the Houdini Scrapbook, Walter Gibson described a 1920s Houdini stage performance where he performed a few parlor effects for the committee that went onstage to examine the Water Torture Cell. The cut and restored turban effect was one of them. I think he also did the vanishing knot with it.

Bill Mullins
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Re: Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby Bill Mullins » November 21st, 2015, 6:27 pm

Here's a review from Variety of a show in which Houdini did the effect at Hammerstein's in July 1914 (the same engagement that he walked through a brick wall?):

"The cold, damp weather Monday night did not help business on Hammerstein's Roof, but it did help the show. The frigidity of the atmosphere resulted in all the Roof windows and sidewalls being closed, shutting out the breezes and incidentally the noise. Talking and singing acts which invariably do a headlong flop upstairs were heard in the rear of the house and the results were better for both audience and artists.

Many empty seats until almost 9:30, when an inrush just before the Houdini act In bygone seasons Houdini always packed them in at night, but Monday it was far from capacity. The slump was attributed to the weather.

The show started at 8:19 and ended at 11:03. Bissett and Evelyn were the first to show. They dance well, but lack the looks and class for the company they were in. The Brothers Arco got a nice reception for their hand balancing. Smith and Cook and the toe-dancing Marie Brandon amused with their conglomeration of absurdities. Martinetti and Sylvester did their old act with their old music. Balaban, in his fourth week, held up the interest by his female impersonation.

Joe Jackson was the first big laughing hit. Joe affects a darker facial makeup. Perhaps he's using a new kind of "black." Nonette got over nicely with her violin numbers.

Houdini, carded "No. 13," was given the "No. 9" position at 9:42. Just before his "water cell" escape which he did on his last trip over here, he exhibited the "burnt turban" trick, said to come from the dark archives of Egypt. He takes a long strip of white muslin which one of the stage committee slashes in twain with a pair of shears. Then the ends are set afire by a lighted candle. After extinguishing the flames, Houdini again cuts the ends several times. A knot is tied, two men pull the muslin from opposite ends and the strip appears connected without a single trace of the burning or clipping.

Intermission followed the Houdini turn with everybody going to the Farm space to watch Lalla Selbini do her cycling act. It's Lalla*s union suit attire that attracts more attention than her "beauiful eyelashes."

The Arnaut Bros, were a pleasing novelty when the show was resumed. Fannie Brice can thank her stars the Roof was enclosed. "The Temptress," with Alice Eis and Bert French, drew attention with the shimmering, flashy stage setting. Bedini, Roy and Arthur offered a travesty on the Eis-French act, along the lines of similar burlesques shown by the comedians. Phil Roy did the Arctic Onri three-stick trick while Bedini and Arthur were getting ready for the travesty. The Merry Monopedes, billed to close, did not appear."

Another account, from the NY Dramatic Mirror July 15 1914.

"Harry Houdini is a showman of the old school. He doesn't overlook a single detail which may add theatric effectiveness to his act.

For his return to the American variety stage at the Victoria, Houdini revived "The Water Torture Cell" with brand new trappings. The name itself is the handcuff king's first touch of spectacular showmanship.

Houdini adds a touch here and there. He summons a "committee" of a dozen or so from the audience to examine his paraphernalia. First, he entertains the committee—and the audience—with the turban trick, in which a long white strip of cloth is apparently cut in two and a second later found to be intact. Then Houdini announces the "water torture cell," generously concedes that he doesn't have supernatural aid, explains the danger he runs in the feat, and notes that he is No. 13 on the programme. "Accidents always happen," he comments as a suspense inciter, "when they're not expected."

Then he retires to attire himself in a bathing suit while his assistants, picturesquely garbed in rubber coats, fill the "torture cell" to the brim with water. The "cell," or oblong box, is of glass, surrounded by bands of iron, held by padlocks. Houdini's feet are pilloried and locked in the heavy cover, and he is lowered head downward into the "cell." The water splashes over the floor, the cover looks are snapped into place, and the cabinet is drawn over the box and its prisoner. Heavy golden curtains hide the "cell " from view.

Creating Dramatic Suspense

Through slits in the hangings, a guard watches into the cabinet. Behind him stands another with a watch in one hand and an axe in the other. A few seconds pass. The curtains flutter a bit and Houdini steps into view. The box is still locked and filled with water.

Houdini knows how to put the punch into his act. This week he is "walking through a brick wall." If you doubt it, you are at liberty to bring along your own wall and test him."

From the NY Herald 7/7/1914:
"A new trick was what he called the Egyptian turban mystery. When Mr. Houdini presented this trick aboard the Imperator recently it is said to have confused one of his fellow passengers, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt."

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JohnCox
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Re: Houdini vs. Hardeen in Oakland

Postby JohnCox » November 21st, 2015, 8:09 pm

Great work, Bill!
Visit my blog Wild About Harry


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