Theodore Hardeen (1876-1945)


Theodore Hardeen's Real Name

Ferencz Dezso Weisz

or Weisz Ferenc Dezső


Hardeen, Theodore Weiss,

Billed himself as

"brother of Houdini."


Magician/Escape Artist

Place of Birth

Budapest, Hungary








Hardeen possessed the ability of masterful and cunning skill in the art of escapology, and performed many of Houdini's death defying stunts.

Interesting Fact

Theodore Hardeen was the first to conceive of escaping from a straitjacket in full view of the audience—a concept fully used by Houdini and generations of performers since.


Theodore Hardeen was born as Ferencz Dezso Weisz, March 4, 1876 in Budapest, Hungary, and went by the name of Theodore Weiss when the family was living in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was known as "Deshi" and later "Dash" by his parents.

In 1893, Hardeen performed with Houdini at Coney Island as "The Brothers Houdini." While there, Harry met and married Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner.

He then went into retail selling for a time, but at Houdini's urging returned to performing, pretending to be his brother's rival and performing a similar act.

Will Goldston, English stage magician and editor of the Magician Annual, wrote that:

"Hardeen learnt his business from Houdini, and he learnt it well, as no man could have failed to do with such a master. But the natural ability was always there. Even if Houdini had not existed to point the way, it is quite likely that Hardeen would have become an escape artiste.

I have seen him perform several times, and have marvelled at his achievements. The huge chains in the cartoon are hardly an exaggeration of those from which he breaks loose.

The handcuffs but a simple thing compared with those with which he is used to toy. Hardeen, like his more famous brother Harry Houdini is a great favourite in the magical world.

He is a man of considerable culture and one of the best raconteurs I have ever met.

Like Houdini, he is willing to expend both time and money freely to further the cause of magic.

Both the amateurs and the professionals of our number regard him as a friend. And the general public regard him as a brilliant artiste and a thrilling entertainer."

Again for a time he ceased performing to manage Houdini's motion picture company, but after his brother's death in 1926 Hardeen returned to the stage playing the vaudeville circuit, doing many of Houdini's routines.

Hardeen later created a more elaborate show, and became a major vaudeville star in the U.S. and Europe.

From 1938 to 1941, Hardeen was featured in Olsen and Johnson's Broadway revue, Hellzapoppin, and during World War II he performed for the troops (as his brother had done during World War I).

In 1936 Hardeen starred in a Vitaphone short film for Warner Bros. called 'Medium Well Done.' In it, Hardeen played a "hardboiled detective" on the case of a bogus medium. The film was directed by Lloyd French, who directed many of the early Laurel and Hardy shorts.

Planning on writing a book about his brother, in 1945 Hardeen went to New York's Doctor's Hospital for a simple operation. He unexpectedly died of complications while recovering from the procedure. He was 69 years old.

During his final show on May 29, 1945 in Ridgeway, Queens, Hardeen named his chief assistant, Douglas Geoffrey, his official successor.

Geoffrey went on to perform as "Hardeen, Jr." for many years. He died on January 14, 1990 at age 82.

The HBO Series Boardwalk Empire featured a performance by Hardeen, played by Remy Auberjonois (son of actor René Auberjonois) as a subplot of Episode 11 "Paris Green" which first aired on November 28, 2010.

Hardeen founded the Magician's Guild. Richard Valentine Pitchford, aka Cardini, took over the Magicians' Guild after Hardeen's death. Sidney Hollis Radner received the Houdini collection from Hardeen.

Information credit: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians.

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