Religious Racketeers (October 13, 1939)

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Religious Racketeers
 

Released on October 13, 1939: Ten years after her husband's death Bess Houdini, Mrs. Harry Houdini, stars in a movie that exposes holy men who claim to communicate with the dead.

Produced by Fanchon Royer

Directed by Frank O'Connor

The Actors: Mrs. Harry Houdini (herself, Mrs. Harry Houdini), Robert Fiske (The Great LaGagge), Helene LeBerthon (Martha Morgan), Arthur Gardner (Elliot Cole), Betty Compson (Ada Bernard), David Kerman (Harvey Wilson), Robert Frazer (Police Inspector Burke), Jimmy Aubrey (Tommy, soldier in India), Bobby Dunn (holy man), Jane Keckley (Mary, Mr. Houdini's maid), Isabel La Mal (seance attendee)

 

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Urban Legends . . . Before the Internet

Put peeled onions in a bowl on a table in your home and it will absorb all the germs that might harm and kill you. Wear garlic around your neck to ward off evil spirits (and most of your friends!) . . . how does one discern what is fact and what is myth. Movie stars and famous people always die three at a time . . . the spirits of your dead loved ones can talk to you from beyond the grave.

For the first twenty five years of the twentieth century Harry Houdini thrilled crowds with his seemingly impossible feats of magic. Houdini searched all of his life for a true connection from the living to the dead, without success. He made a pact with his wife saying that if he died before she did, that on the tenth anniversary of his death he would try to contact his wife with a secret message known only to him and his wife.

In 1926 on Halloween he passed, and ten years later in 1936 Houdini's wife Bess held a séance to try to connect to his spirit. Unfortunately Mrs. Houdini was unable to find any soothsayer who could connect her with her beloved husband.

After this failed attempt to contact her beloved husband, Bess Houdini teamed with a Hollywood producer to create a movie that would expose the fake spiritualists that claimed to speak with the dead. The first working title of the movie was 'Madame Houdini Speaks,' but it eventually evolved into 'Religious Racketeers' and became the movie presented here. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter on it and enjoy the only on-screen appearance by Bess Houdini, beloved wife of one of the world's greatest magicians.

Arthur Gardner as reporter Elliot Cole
Arthur Gardner as reporter Elliot Cole
Arthur Gardner in Religious Racketeers
Arthur Gardner in Religious Racketeers
Betty Compson as Ada Bernard
Betty Compson as Ada Bernard
David Kerman and Betty Compson
David Kerman and Betty Compson
David Kerman and Robert Fiske
David Kerman and Robert Fiske
David Kerman as Harvey Wilson
David Kerman as Harvey Wilson
Helene LeBerthon and Arthur Gardner
Helene LeBerthon and Arthur Gardner
Helene LeBerthon and Betty Compson in Egypt
Helene LeBerthon and Betty Compson in Egypt
Helene LeBerthon and Betty Compson
Helene LeBerthon and Betty Compson
Jane Keckley and Mrs. Harry Houdini
Jane Keckley and Mrs. Harry Houdini
Mrs. Harry Houdini in Relgious Racketeers
Mrs. Harry Houdini in Relgious Racketeers
Robert Fiske aond Betty Compson
Robert Fiske aond Betty Compson
Robert Fiske and David Kerman
Robert Fiske and David Kerman
Robert Fiske as the Great LaGagge
Robert Fiske as the Great LaGagge
Robert Frazer as Police Inspector Burke
Robert Frazer as Police Inspector Burke