Houdini (1953) - Rotten Tomatoes

Houdini (1953)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Houdini Photos

Movie Info

This highly fanciful but immensely entertaining biopic stars Tony Curtis as legendary magician/escape-artist Harry Houdini. Janet Leigh, Mrs. Tony Curtis at the time, co-stars as Houdini's wife Bess, while Angela Clarke is seen as Houdini's mother. The film follows Houdini's progress from sideshow entertainer to high-priced prestidigitator, and also touches upon his fascination with the occult--and his efforts to expose phony mediums. Philip Yordan's script (based on a book by Harold Kellock) suggests that virtually every portentous occasion in Houdini's life occurred on Halloween day, including his death from peritonitis in 1926. The facts of Houdini's life seldom get in the way of Yordan's story; while general audiences won't spot too many discrepancies, professional magicians tend to howl with laughter at some of the film's intentional boners. Example: In real life, Houdini's appendix was fatally ruptured by a punch to the stomach; in the film, he injures himself by accidentally bumping into one of his props, the sword-studded "Temple of Benares" trick--which hadn't yet been invented in 1926! Still, it's fun to watch Tony Curtis wriggle his way out of some of Houdini's most baffling escape routines (both Curtis and Janet Leigh were carefully instructed on the set by professional magicians, who swore the stars to secrecy concerning the tricks of the trade). For a more accurate slant on Houdini's life, see the 1976 TV movie The Great Houdinis, starring Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers.

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Tony Curtis
as Harry Houdini
Janet Leigh
as Bess Houdini
Angela Clarke
as Harry's Mother
Sig Rumann
as Schultz
Stefan Schnabel
as Prosecuting Attorney
Ian Wolfe
as Fante
Connie Gilchrist
as Mrs. Schultz
Frank Orth
as White-haired Man
Barry Bernard
as Inspector
Elsie Ames
as Entertainer
Nick Arno
as Entertainer
Esther Garber
as Esther's Girl Friend
Norma Jean Eckart
as Girl in Guillotine Act
Lawrence Ryle
as German Judge
Jody Gilbert
as Fat Girl
Edward Clark
as Doorman
Grace Hayle
as Woman Who Screams
Fred Essler
as Official-Looking Man
Arthur E. Gould-Porter
as Alhambra Manager
Alec Harford
as Assistant
Tudor Owen
as Blacksmith
Ernö Verebes
as Prof. Allegari
Frank Jaquet
as Foreman
Billy Bletcher
as Italian Basso
Lyle Latell
as Calcott
Torben Meyer
as Headwaiter
Tor Johnson
as Strong Man
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Critic Reviews for Houdini

All Critics (13)

Hollywood legend Tony Curtis gives one of his best performances in Houdini, a colorful biography set in the 1890s through 1920s, and he does it playing opposite his then-wife Janet Leigh....

January 16, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

There's enough whimsy on display to make the film a pleasant charmer.

July 11, 2008 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Colorful, but full of falsehoods, story of Houdini. Curtis is pretty good.

March 23, 2008 | Rating: 3/5

Accuracy, be darned; this is pure entertainment bio-pic with Tony Curtis at the height of his charismatic matinee idol period; plus working with wife Janet Leigh isn't bad either.

February 25, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

Standard issue star vehicle biopic.

February 12, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

O filme se preocupa mais em mostrar o relacionamento de Houdini com a esposa do que sua obsessão por escapadas. De todo modo, Curtis está muito bem e convence como mágico.

July 25, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Houdini


An interesting movie about the great magician Houdini, but it could have been better, maybe more biographical?

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


It was okay, a nice little love story in there, it had some interesting things

Marion Ravenwood
Marion Ravenwood

Super Reviewer


Highly fictionalized but very entertaining story of the great magician. Curits acquits himself well in the lead and Janet is lovely.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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