Harry Houdini was a famous movie star. He stared as Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. For most of 20 years, Houdini was in the newspaper a lot with amazing escapes from being shackled to confined in a box to put in water. He also surprised people by walking through walls and making an elephant disappear. The 80th year of his death on Oct. 31, 1926, was made into a book called “The Secret Life of Harry Houdini, The Making of America’s First Superhero,” by William Kalush and Larry Sloman. Ever the illusionist, Houdini made everyone think in his professional years that he had been born in Appleton on April 6, 1874, but he really was born on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary, and became a U.S. citizen. His father was a lawyer then when they moved to america he became a teacher. William Kalush, himself a magician, said that he and Sloman, an author, did a 2 year to researching and writing the book. They were able to find “circumstantial evidence” that Houdini had spied for the United States and England in the early 20th century. Houdini’s father had a first cousin who was a famous magician in Europe, so he started early in magic.
He realized that his name, Erik Weisz at birth, changed to Ehrich Weiss because of U.S. immigration, he also lacked acting abilities. He became Harry Houdini, he changed his last name to houdini in honor of Robert Houdin, the pioneering French magician. “At first Houdini had success as a fraudulent spiritualist,” Kalush said. “But he realized that he wasn’t honoring his oath to his (deceased) father. He was taking care of his mother with his money, but he didn’t feel right. He gave up spiritualism; he’d rather fail than take this so-called dirty money.” When he was traveling with a circus, Houdini thought of a way to attract people. He visited police stations challenging them to get out of any handcuffs they had. He disappeared from a metal box that was also emerged in water a few minutes later without cuffs. “Amazes the Detectives,” headlined a Chicago newspaper.
His first film was made in France in 1902. He photographed his stunts, but didn’t start writing movie scripts til 1916. Between 1919 and 1923, Houdini appeared in movies and shows like “The Master Mystery,” “The Grim Game,” “Mystery Island” and “The Man From Beyond.” “The films did extend his fame,” said Kalush, “but by the time his first film was released, his fame transcended being a normal, formal entertainer in the culture.” Houdini was a leader that everyone wanted to follow. It Was obvious that women would fall for him since he is so famous. “He had what women wanted.”He had what women wanted: He had power, and he didn’t have to go by the rules of everybody else,” Kalush said. “He was an attractive man.” He also had a “strange relationship” with his wife, Bess. They got married at a young age, and Bess wanted to not just be married but be partners, so she became his assistant. She assitied him onstage and helping him in his stunts. As he got more popular and made lots of money, he often was gone a lot on tours and that could have been his chance to get with any women he wanted. In 1916, Houdini was interested by Charmian London, the widow of author Jack London.
They made secrete meeting places to talked by telephone, and she called him in her diary “Magic Lover.” They kept giving each other letters until 1924, when he stopped writing. While he was in montreal, a mysterious young man punched him in the stomach 4:5 times. Houdini, was unprepared and was in alot of pain. A few days later, he was reading a newspaper in his hotel in detroit when three men came up to him. One of them punched Houdini in the stomach. He was barely able to get through that nights show. Houdini had to go to the hospital, he had 2 surgeries, but he died that night. October 31st, the night of his surgeries, he died.