It’s week five in Fox’s fledgling series, Houdini & Doyle, and the quirky crime caper continues to step up its game. This week, perhaps the best yet, there was suspense. There was intrigue. And there was what is fast becoming my favorite thing about the show: bits of odd trivia from real-life history peppering the plot.
I love a good period drama, and I especially love those that leave me wanting more once the episode is over. With each passing week, I’ve found Houdini & Doyle has done just that — which usually winds up with me googling about the historical perspective well into the night.
Over the last few weeks, the show has alluded to the fact that one of the main characters, Harry Houdini, dearly loved his mother (and she him, naturally).
Tonight, he actually roped Doyle and Constable Stratton into spying on his mother when she met a man for lunch. Because this particular exchange struck me as one of those things so strange it was probably actually an eclectic piece of Houdini’s real-life past, I decided to do a little digging.
Michael Weston, who plays Houdini, posted a picture of the magician and his mother IRL on Mother’s Day earlier this year. That sweet kiss! The smile on her face! Clearly, these two had a strong bond.
— Michael Weston (@_Michael_Weston) May 8, 2016
A quick scan of Houdini enthusiasts in the Twitterverse confirmed that Houdini was, in fact, a total and utter mama’s boy.
Harry and his mother had such a beautiful relationship. #houdinianddoyle
— Jenna aka Evelyn Wilder (@_Evelyn_Wilder) May 31, 2016
From the Librarian's desk….Houdini had a brother and a wife named Bess…but he was deeply attached to his mother. #HoudiniAndDoyle
— Talk Nerdy With Us (@TalkNerdyWithUs) May 31, 2016
— Oil (@gdgirl02) May 31, 2016
Then I came across a fan site called Wild About Harry, where blogger John Cox covers all things Houdini in great detail. In fact, Cox has become such an authority on the subject that even the writer of tonight’s episode, Joshua Brandon, has cited him on occasion.
There are many references made to Houdini’s mother, Cecilia Steiner Weiss, on the site. According to Cox, “Houdini was fanatically devoted to his mother.” When she passed away suddenly in 1913 due to a stroke, Houdini took the loss extremely hard.
On Nov. 22, 1913, he wrote a letter to his brother Theo expressing his struggle with grief in the wake of their mother’s death. “Dash, its TOUGH, and I can’t seem to get over it. Some times I feel alright, but when a calm moment arrives I am as bad as ever [sic],” he wrote.
Further correspondence nearly a year after her death also detailed Houdini’s despondence over his beloved mother, with Houdini saying, “I can write alright when I keep away from that heart rendering subject so will try and avoid it, if possible. But I have to write to my brother once in a while about her whom we miss and for her with whom I feel as if my heart of hearts went with her.”
Aw, poor Houdini! As someone who is extremely close to their mama, I empathize. Knowing the context of their relationship makes him — both the character and the real-life historical Houdini — even more likable to me.
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While I understand the show doesn’t always adhere to historical accuracy, I am happy they are choosing to pay homage to Houdini’s real-life relationship with his mother. Thanks to the show (and to Wild About Houdini), I can’t wait to learn more about this eccentric man and how being a total mama’s boy shaped his life.
What’s more, I’m dying to know if the show will devote time and plot to Cecilia’s passing. After all, something with so much profundity in Houdini’s life certainly seems to merit a story arc on the show.