Movie Monday: Houdini (1953)

“Say, fellas, let’s make a movie about Houdini.”

“Sure! What’s the angle? Like a lot of theatrical set pieces, with Tony Curtis providing Houdini’s trademark vigour and athleticism?”

“Sounds good. But what about the plot?”

“Well … it could be a romance about him and his wife.”

“Sure! Working together in vaudeville, life on the road, the thing with his brother.”

“Oh … well, let’s leave out the brother. And instead of working in vaudeville together, let’s say she’s a schoolgirl and she meets him when he’s performing in a sideshow. And instead of being a showbiz team, let’s say she’s super reluctant about his magic and always complaining and nagging.”

“Ha! Just like a woman. I love it. What else?”

“Well, we should portray his magic as a dangerous quest that eventually killed him.”

“The obsession with power, man’s hubris — great stuff. So how did magic give him appendicitis?”

“Oh, we’ll leave that part out and just say he died doing the water torture pagoda.”

“Great. Makes sense! And of course we can have him hunting phony spiritualists.”

“Sure! But we don’t want to offend anybody who believes in magic, so let’s have a plot where he’s searching for the secret of dematerialisation. But we don’t want to come down too hard on that side, so let’s just make sure it goes absolutely nowhere.”


“The immigrant kid making good in America — it’s a classic.”

“Oh, I don’t think we’re going to have time for that in this movie.”

“Right, right. That’s smart. So how long is a good running time for a movie? About an hour and a half?”

“Hour and three quarters; we have all those performance scenes to fit in.”

“Sure, sure. And how many scenes of someone doing a trick do you think we’re gonna need? Like … eighty million or so?”

“Sounds good.”

Movie Monday: Houdini (1953)

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