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Niagara Falls Daredevils Week-Day 3 [Video]

Hulton Archives, via Getty Images

More than a few movies have been set in, or featured scenes shot at Niagara Falls. Marilyn Monroe had a breakout performance in 1953′s Niagara (while simultaneously being courted by two different suitors [including future husband Joe DiMaggio] while they were all staying on different floors of the same Niagara Falls, ON hotel!). Clark and Lois honeymooned at the Falls in 1980′s Superman II. And, in what may have been the first major scene shot there, a legendary magician performed real magic in the pounding waters at the brink of the cataract.

Harry Houdini was the highest-paid performer of his era, the greatest magician of the last century. But by 1922, he was tired of the grind of long tours. He came up with the idea of making movies, and started his own production company. The first movie they made was The Man From Beyond. Houdini played a 19Th century man, flash-frozen during a storm, then thawed out in the 20Th century. Houdini used his skills to create special escapes throughout the movie, including his escape from the waters of the mighty Niagara [please excuse the poor quality of the footage. You may want to use the "lighten" function on your computer screen before watching]:

[MagicArchives, via YouTube]

(By the way, no stunt doubles were used in this scene. Houdini was an excellent swimmer; in fact, he first became famous as an amateur champion, before his magic career kicked in. When the movie came out, a few reviews complained that safety ropes must have been used. Very likely they were. And anyone who would be willing to even attempt a scene like this, with or without ropes, is free to be critical.)

I’ve never seen any more of Houdini’s three movies than this, but most experts say that he was a much better magician than an actor. “The Master Magician” was reportedly especially weak in love scenes, and poor reviews, along with the high cost of running his own movie company, drove Harry out of the biz within a year or two.

Tomorrow, a more recent stunter, who billed himself as the “Last of the Niagara Daredevils”.

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