Houdini’s birthday – do you believe in magic?
On March 24, 1874, the world-renowned magician and escape artist Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. Born Erik Weisz, the Hungarian immigrated to the US and as ‘Houdini’ redefined magic through remarkable escapes and impressively deceptive illusions.
In honor of Harry Houdini’s 142nd birthday, DMG Entertainment highlights six films that will test your belief and stretch the boundaries of “movie magic”.
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen Jim Dunk, Fenella Woolgar
Summary: Young American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) travels to England to conduct an interview with an actor. After the interview, she attends a magic performance and volunteers herself for an act. Unexpectedly, the dead contacts Pransky and gives her an infamous murder’s identity. With the help of dimwitted magician Sid Waterman (Woody Allen), Sondra searches for the killer.
Best Quote: Sid Waterman: No, no, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Cause I never wanted to have kids. I didn’t because you have kids… what is it? You know you’re nice to them… you bring them up… you suffer… y-you take care of them… and then they grow up and… and… and they accuse… uh… you of having Alzheimer’s.
Fun Facts: Woody Allen personally tailored the lead role for Scarlett Johansson. Woody Allen noticed Scarlett had an unexploited “funny” quality while working with her on MATCH POINT (2005).
Director: George Marshall
Starring: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher
Summary: The fictionalized biopic focuses on the life of famed magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (Tony Curtis). Wife/magical assistant Bess Houdini (Janet Leigh) helps Houdini chase his dream of becoming a world-renowned magician. Despite numerous failed attempts, their acts gain international success by pushing the boundaries of imagination. After Houdini’s mother’s death, he not only attempts to make contact with the spiritual world, but also risks his life in to achieve magical perfection.
Best Quote: Harry Houdini: It’ll be the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done. Bess Houdini: And the most dangerous! Harry Houdini: Bess, people aren’t going to stand in line and watch me pull rabbits out of a hat. Bess Houdini: Why? Why must every act you do be flirting with death? Harry Houdini: Because it’s the only act that’ll hold an audience spellbound. People fall asleep at the opera, but they stay wide awake at the bullfights because there’s one man defying death down in that arena. You take this out of my act and I’m nothing! Bess Houdini: You keep it in and we’re both nothing!
Fun Facts: Tony Curtis used to be a talented amateur magician, allowing him to perform most of the magic tricks by himself.
THE ILLUSIONIST (2006)
Director: Neil Burger
Starring: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell
Summary: In late nineteenth century Vienna, Eduard Abramovich (Edward Norton) falls in love with the beautiful Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel). Despite their strong connection, the difference in their social class keeps them from marrying each other. Eduard Abramovich pursues a career in magic and becomes the famed magician Eisenheim. With his new status and magical abilities, he tries to stop Sophie’s politically arranged marriage and win back the love of his life.
Best Quote: Eisenheim: From the moment we enter this live we are in the flow of it. We measure it and we mock it, but we cannot defy it. We cannot even speed it up or slow it down. Or can we? Have we not each experienced the sensation that a beautiful moment seemed to pass to quickly, and wished that we could make it linger? Or felt time slow on a dull day, and wished that we could speed things up a bit?
Fun Facts: Famous magicians James Freedman and Ricky Jay trained Edward Norton in magical techniques so the film would not require the use of CGI.
THE MAGICIAN (1958)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand
Summary: In 1840s Europe, the traveling magical entertainers, “Vogler’s Magnetic Health Theater”, performs a show so spectacular many consider it a supernatural phenomenon. When the traveling act reaches a small town, local authorities request a team of educated skeptics to watch the magical act and determine if it’s acceptable for public viewing. Can “Vogler’s Magnetic Health Theater” outsmart a town determined to shut them down?
Best Quote: Johan Spegel: I’ve prayed for just one thing in my life. “Use me. Make me your servant.” But God never understood what a strong devoted slave I was. So I went unused. That’s a lie too, by the way. One goes step by step into the darkness. The movement itself is the only truth.
Fun Facts: Max von Sydow, who plays Albert Vogler, doesn’t say a single word until an hour and three minutes into THE MAGICIAN.
NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freedman
Summary: When an infamous magic team, known as The Four Horsemen, robs a Paris bank during a live performance in Las Vegas, FBI and Interpol agents investigate the magicians’ bewildering heist. Turning up empty-handed, the investigative team turns to famed magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) for answers.
Best Quote: J. Daniel Atlas: Let me warn you. I want you to follow, because no matter what you think you might know, we will always be one step, three steps- seven steps ahead of you, and just when you think you’re catching up, that’s when we’ll be right behind you. And at no time will you be anywhere other than exactly where I want you to be. So come close, get all over me because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.
Fun Facts: On the Bob Rivers Radio Show (KJR-FM, Seattle), Dave Franco showcased his card throwing ability by slicing a banana into four pieces with his hotel key card
THE PRESTIGE (2006)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall
Summary: In 1800s London, partner magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) become bitter rivals after an accident claims the life of Borden’s wife (Rebecca Hall). Although both magicians become famous by themselves, they continue to challenge and sabotage each other’s magic acts. When both magicians try to discover the secret of the ultimate magic trick “The Transported Man”, their rivalry turns into a dangerous obsession.
Best Quote: Cutter: Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige.”
Fun Facts: If you take the initials of the lead characters’ names (Alfred Borden and Robert Angier), they spell out ABRA, as in the commonly used magician’s term Abracadabra.
Happy Birthday Harry Houdini!
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