The Grim Game

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The Grim Game
Grim game.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrvin Willat
Produced byJesse L. Lasky
Screenplay byWalter Woods
Story by
CinematographyFrank M. Blount
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 25, 1919 (1919-08-25)
Running time
71 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

The Grim Game is a 1919 American silent drama film directed by Irvin Willat and starring Harry Houdini and Ann Forrest. The basic plotline serves as a showcase for Houdini's talent as an escapologist, stunt performer and aviator.


A gang of men frame Harvey Hanford (Houdini) for murder, and also decide to kidnap his fiancée. Hanford is quickly apprehended by the police and falsely imprisoned for the crime. Shortly afterward, Hanford escapes and pursues the men who framed him. The film unfolds as a series of Houdini's trademark set-piece stunts and escapes; his tormentors chain him up and imprison him on numerous occasions, only for Hanford to escape. The film concludes with a climactic mid-air collision following an aeroplane pursuit. Following the collision, Hanford is reunited with his fiancée.


Plane collision[edit]

The famous mid-air plane collision was not scripted. It was a real accident caught on film over the skies of Santa Monica, California. Stuntman Robert E. Kennedy was doubling Houdini at the time. No one was killed, and the story was rewritten to incorporate the accident. Publicity was geared heavily toward promoting this dramatic "caught on film" moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane.[1]


Widely considered to have been a lost film, a complete print of the film was acquired by Turner Classic Movies from Larry Weeks, a former juggler from Brooklyn who had obtained his copy from the Houdini estate.[2]

Following up on a lead from Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of The Houdini Museum[2] in Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Grim Game was restored by Rick Schmidlin. TCM gave the restored version a world premiere as the closing film for their annual Classic Film Festival on March 29, 2015.[3] TCM premiered the film on October 18, 2015.


An original 1919 movie poster from The Grim Game was auctioned by for $67,166 on December 3, 2013, a new auction record for any Houdini poster (movie or magic). The poster was purchased by illusionist David Copperfield.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenneth Silverman (1997). Houdini!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss. HarperPerennial. pp. 239–240. ISBN 978-0-06-092862-9.
  2. ^ a b "Turner Classic Movies to Host World Premiere Screening of Long Lost Harry Houdini Classic The Grim Game at 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival" (Press release). Turner Classic Movies. January 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  3. ^ Lisa de Moraes (January 23, 2015). "Rarely Seen Harry Houdini Film 'The Grim Game' To Premiere At TCM Film Festival". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  4. ^ John Cox (December 3, 2013). "Houdini 'Grim Game' Poster Sets New Auction Record". Wild About Harry. Retrieved 2015-10-18.

External links[edit]