“The Grim Game” at Sierra Madre Playhouse

THE GRIM GAME, Harry Houdini, 1919.


The magic of movies returns to the Sierra Madre Playhouse with an ultra-rare cinema gem starring the greatest magician of the 20th century, Harry Houdini. Houdini’s thrill-packed The Grim Game will play in Sierra Madre for one night only, one show only: 8pm on May 3rd but in a new collaboration; it will also be shown at the Catalina Island Museum on May 17th as part of a two-day celebration of silent film culminating in a screening of the quintessential flapper movie, Why Be Good? on the big screen of the the Avalon Casino Theater – William Wrigley Jr.’s Art Deco movie palace. 

The Sierra Madre Playhouse wants to reclaim part of its cultural heritage. It became a cinema in 1924 and under a variety of names showed films until the early 1970s. It intends to start a regular film series linked thematically to its plays. Catalina Island Museum wants to have a foothold on the mainland to help spread the word about its  annual Silent Film Benefit, now in its 32nd year and one of the longest running celebrations of silent film in the world.. 

Everyone is invited to step back into 1919 — one hundred years ago — and see this lost classic as it was meant to be seen, with live accompaniment by the doyen of silent film musicians, Michael Mortilla, and violinist Nicole Garcia. This exciting event will be introduced by Houdini expert John Cox (  Michael will talk about the importance of music in the silent era.

The Grim Game is a silent drama that showcases Houdini’s astonishing, world-famous talents as an escapologist, stunt performer and aviator. The film presents a series of Houdini’s trademark stunts and escapes and builds to an airplane pursuit climaxed by a mid-air collision.

The film was considered lost for decades until it was rediscovered, restored and shown in 2015. It’s a fascinating cinematic record, revealing the reason that Houdini was one of the biggest stars of the early 20th century. 

Proceeds from this special event will be shared equally by the Playhouse and the Catalina Island Museum, which is generously providing this film.

The Grim Game. Adventure. Directed by Irvin Willat. Written by Willat, John W. Grey, Arthur B. Reeve, Walter Woods. Produced by Jesse L. Lasky. From Paramount Pictures. (Black-and-white, 1919, USA, 71 minutes, not rated) Starring Harry Houdini, Ann Forrest, Mae Busch, Thomas Jefferson, Augustus Phillips, Tully Marshall. Jailed unjustly for a murder he did not commit, a young man uses his amazing powers of escape to free himself and pursue the actual killers, who hold his fiancée captive. Silent.

The Grim Game. At Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024. This is just east of Pasadena. There is ample parking in free lots behind the Playhouse and across the street, and there is also street parking. Friday, May 3, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. All seats $25. Reservations: (626) 355-4318 or online at

The Catalina Island Museum offers the best in art and history exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film. Located on Catalina Island at 217 Metropole Avenue, Avalon, CA 90704. Open daily: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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