Harry Houdini, Newspaper Reporter

Closing night at the TCM Classic Film Festival showcases 1919 film long thought to have been lost.

Prior to last night’s screening of The Grim Game at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles, Harry Houdini’s 1919 silent feature hadn’t been publicly shared in decades. Larry Weeks, a devoted Brooklyn-based Houdini fan who passed away last year shortly after confirming his ownership of the only known copy, previously showed it in 1973 at The New School.

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In the film, which was re-premiered last night with live musical accompaniment, Houdini plays a newspaper reporter who fakes his uncle’s death, only to then be framed for the man’s actual murder. From the program notes:

The plane crash sequence was an accident during filming that the producers decided to incorporate within the plot. Fortunately, both flyers were able to get their planes under control and land safely. At the picture’s premiere, Houdini offered a $1,000 reward to anybody who could prove the collision had been faked.

Rick Schmidlin, who negotiated TCM’s purchase of the film from Weeks last year, told the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick that the former juggler and children’s party entertainer drove a hard bargain. Sunday night’s screening at The Egyptian was a big deal in the Houdini world, with Schmidlin separately explaining to the LA TimesSusan King that fans were flying in from all over the U.S. to attend.

The movie, the second of five silent films made by Houdini, will be broadcast on TCM in the near future.
 
[Image courtesy: TCM]