The Grim Game

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The Grim Game
Grim game.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Irvin Willat
Produced by Jesse L. Lasky
Written by Arthur B. Reeve
John Grey
Starring Harry Houdini
Ann Forrest
Augustus Phillips
Tully Marshall
Arthur Hoyt
Cinematography Frank M. Blount
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 25, 1919 (1919-08-25)
Running time
71 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget $200,000

The Grim Game is a 1919 silent film starring Harry Houdini and Ann Forrest. The basic plotline serves as a showcase for Houdini's talent as an escapologist, stunt performer and aviator. [1]


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 chaining him up and imprisoning 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.

Preservation status[edit]

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.

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 it a world premiere as the closing film for their annual Classic Film Festival on March 29th, 2015.[3]


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. Miraculously, 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.[4]


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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dietrich Brookz Houdini Museum provides lead
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss, Kenneth Silverman, 1997, pp. 239-240
  5. ^

External links[edit]