Wednesday, September 03, 2014


The History Channel has been showing the first part of a miniseries about famed magician, Harry Houdini. It's a dramatization and I was sure they were taking some liberty with the facts. 

One thing they showed was Houdini working as a spy for the British and Americans while he toured Europe and Russia. I'd never heard that one before. Then again, I never knew much about Houdini to begin with. I decided to check him out this morning and found this page that debunks much of the stuff in the movie. The movie was still fun for me, as was reading the stuff being debunked.

No, he wasn't a spy.


At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first clue you should have had that it ain't history is that it appears on The History Channel.
Actually, it's now called H and is a joint venture between The Hearst Corp and Disney-ABC.

Info-tainment is more what it really is going for ratings more than anything else.

I remember as a kid seeing the Tony Curtis movie, Houdini . The trapped under the ice scene was exciting but that was before anyone heard of that nasty little problem called hypothermia, I guess.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

They've only shown parts of the trapped under the ice scene, so far. Just previews to Part 2. They show him jump off a pretty high bridge into a hole in the ice. I couldn't help but wonder if he'd have survived the jump?

You jump off something that high into water and they say it's almost like landing on concrete. Never mind going into the cold water.

That spy thing was intriguing, but it had me wondering when the British guy meets with Houdini and says he's from MI5, that British intelligence agency. I wasn't sure MI5 was even around back then. That web page pointed out it wasn't.

Then, he gets locked in a relatively small safe while trying to steal a secret plan- a safe he's never been in before. Not only was there little, if any air, it was pitch black. Yet he manages to open the safe from the inside and escape.

Seemed far fetched but I don't mind stuff like that when they're trying to entertain people with a story. That's one of the reasons I tend to check stuff online the day after. I do prefer historical movies to be as accurate as possible, though.

Saw a TV movie on Bonnie and Clyde not long ago. Checked some of that stuff the next day. Much of the stuff they showed was based on fact, although things were juxtaposed around.

One thing I was surprised to read on Wikepedia, though, was one of the regular gang members said he'd never seen Bonnie brandish a gun at anyone. She drove the getaway car at least once, but that was about it. The famous picture showing her with a cigar in her mouth and holding a handgun was staged for effect.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Curtis movie he was being lowered into the river all chained up in a safe, or iron box. The chain lowering the box broke and it crashed through the ice. Then it switched to him underwater getting out of his chains and then the box and rising to the surface where he can't find the opening.
He struggles for a very long time, so long that most of the crowd leaves, except for his wife and a few friends. He finally finds an opening, like hours later. Exciting, but total BS.

They will probaly show in part 2 how he died. My understanding, from my father, was that he invited guys to punch him as hard as they could in the stomach. That resulted in a burst appendix and he didn't get help for that until too late.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I had been under the impression he'd died somehow along the line of the Tony Curtis flick. I thought I'd read somewhere that he was underwater in a box and couldn't get out, drowning as a result. I guess that was totally wrong.

Wikepedia says your understanding was correct. He was reputed to be able to withstand blows to the stomach. Some guy challenged him on that then pummeled him multiple times in the lower abdomen without warning. He had to tell the guy to stop as he needed to be prepared for that sort of thing.

The damage was done and he died later from a burst appendix and something else that got screwed up inside him from the punching.

Be interesting to see how the show tells the story of his death. I just noticed that page says to stay tuned for Part 2, so I guess they'll be debunking that part soon.

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's pretty much how he died. Burst appendix. I believe the reason why my father knew about it was because the punching incident happened at Cornell Univ. My father went there, but he didn't witness it.
Could be wrong about that

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the opinion that the last place you should go to learn about History is the history channel.

If you want to learn about pawn shops or swamp people, by all means, tune in!


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