Harry Houdini had a profound impact on the world of magic through his career and through his life. Using his work and his magnificent ability to come up with new, creative means, Houdini established himself as one of the top magicians of his time. Houdini came to America from Hungary in order to pursue his dream of making a substantial living for himself and his family. Though he often performed shows that were similar to many of his contemporaries, Houdini’s work was set apart by both his ability to come up with new forms of entertainment and his mastery of the art of escapism.
As such, Houdini became one of the most influential individuals in the field of magic to ever live. Harry Houdini, who was originally born Erich Weiss, set out to make a career for himself that included revolutionary magic techniques and a measure of showmanship to go along with it. He did not get his start by accident, however. In fact, Houdini was schooled in magic from the start of his career by some of the best magicians in the world.
In the beginning, he chose his mentor to be Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, a French magician that had been one of the best in the field for a long time. Houdin taught him not only how to perform magic, but also how to make the audience fall in love with a show. This was a very important part of Houdini’s development and started from an extremely early time in his career. A Harold Kellock book called Houdini: His Life Story spent a lot of time talking about this portion of Houdini’s life and how important that became to his career.
According to that book, it was Houdini’s time spent studying under Houdin that gave him the strength to survive during what would be some very difficult early years in his career (Kellock), Had Houdini not gained the strength to push through those difficult times, he would have had a very difficult time making the profound impact that he made on the world of magic. Houdini was the most influential magician of his time and perhaps ever because he was not afraid to change his style of magic.
Perhaps that penchant for change came from his studies of other magicians, but mostly it came from within Houdini himself. Houdini did not know exactly what magic focus he would have when he started his career, but somehow, he was led to card tricks during that early part. During his time as a card magician, Houdini was known to pull off some of the most fantastic tricks in that field. Even though he was very good at what he was doing, his career did not take off in the manner which he expected it to, though.
Houdini became an influential character because he was able to come up with magic tricks that would delight his fans. Since he noticed that there was not a lot of interest in his card tricks and people were growing tired of that form of magic, he set his sights on something better. He worked very hard to learn escapism, a new form of magic that would eventually become his trademark and would make him a famous magician. Up until the time when Harry Houdini set his sights on escapism, he was a relatively unknown man working in a relatively unknown field.
Once he decided that he would come up with new ways to escape from situations, Houdini finally made it big in the business. His first big trick was an escape from handcuffs, which not only dazzled crowds, but it caught the eye of executives. Once Houdini showed that he was very good at that trick and some similar tricks, he was given an opportunity to shine on a much bigger level. According to the Manny Weltman book, Houdini: Escape into Legend, Houdini was not sure about going into escapism at first, but when he saw the massive success that it brought, he warmed up to the idea (Weltman).
That turned out to be a great decision for the Hungarian born magician, as it turned him from a relative unknown to one of the most popular professionals in magic, which was a vastly popular entertainment method during that time. Though he was not the first man to try escapism as a form of magic, he was purportedly the best at it, which gave him a measure of credibility and speaks to his overall influence on magic during that time. After Houdini, more and more magicians began to take up the trade of escapism, though few of them could perform at the level that he performed.
Houdini’s influence on the world at that time can be seen clearly in the fact that even local police would stop what they were doing in order to help him out in one of his tricks. Often times, Houdini’s managers would set up scenes in prisons where Houdini was shackled, stripped down, and put into a prison cell. It did not take him long to break out of that cell, much to the surprise and delight of everyone that watched the episode. This did not happen in just one part of Europe, though. Houdini made sure that he was a sensational hit all over the globe.
According to Houdini’s Fabulous Magic Walter Gibson and Morris Young, Houdini took his show to many countries, including Germany, Russia, England, and France (Gibson and Young). The fact that he was so readily accepted in countries all over three continents is a clear indication of the broad, vast influence that Houdini had. Not only was he the most popular magician of his time, but he was a folk hero that had an impact on other parts of society, as well. He turned himself into a transcendent star that just about everyone knew and loved.
Like most of the great, influential people in history, Houdini did not stop his professional career at only magic. Instead, he went on to become an actor in many different films. In a way, he was able to parlay his success as an escape artist into a special career on the big screen. Houdini spent more than two decades working in the movies, but he did not forget his magic. He was the man who brought magic to the big screen. Instead of just doing his tricks for people in theatres across Europe, he signed on to perform his tricks on the silver screen for the entire world to see.
This is another way that Houdini was a revolutionary professional and one of the most influential people of his time. He transformed the field of magic into a small thing done on a local level into a hit draw in movie theatres. This transition was due fully in part to his magnificent skills. Even in death, Houdini was a folk hero. The details of his death have been debated over and over, though the most commonly accepted story has to do with him being hit repeatedly in the stomach by a college student.
According to all of the reports at the time, his death fell somewhere between stupidity and murder. It rocked the world during that time, as he was a star taken too soon. Even in 2007, there are reports from news outlets on his death. An Associated Press article from March reads, “A team of forensic experts will pore over the exhumed remains of renowned escape artist Harry Houdini to determine whether he was murdered more than 80 years ago” (AP).
The fact that he is still being debated about to this day is a tribute to his overall impact on the world in which he lived. Don Bell’s book, The Man Who Killed Houdini is a chilling rendition of the incident and describes the manner in which the event took place. It describes the torment that the killer went through following the event (Bell). One might argue that Houdini was just a magician, but they would be missing his overall impact on the world in which he lived.
Harry Houdini was much more than that. In fact, he was so influential that he completely transformed the way that people viewed magic during that time. He was an individual that spent much of his time learning and doing new things in order to stay on the cutting edge of the magic field. Eventually, he found his niche in escapism. It was not until he was brutally killed that Houdini stopped transforming both the world of magic and the entire society in which he lived.
Associated Press. Was Houdini Poisoned by Enemies. 23 March 2007. http://www. msnbc. msn. com/id/17741602/ Bell, Don. The Man who Killed Houdini. 2004. Vehicule Press. Cannell, J. C. The Secrets of Houdini. 1931. Hutchinson & Co. , London, Gibson, Walter B & Young, Morris N. Houdini’s Fabulous Magic. 1960. Chilton, NY. Kellock, Harold. His Life Story. January 2003. Kessinger Publishing. Weltman, Manny. Houdini: Escape into Legend, The Early Years: 1862-1900. 1993. Finders/Seekers Enterprises, Los Angeles,Sample Essay of Masterpapers.com