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Home / Montreal / The Great Houdini died from punch in Montreal – Then and Now Montreal

The Great Houdini died from punch in Montreal – Then and Now Montreal

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

The Great Houdini – The Princess Theatre was built in 1908, and featured vaudeville and burlesque shows, operettas and theatrical performances. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1915. In 1917, the Princess was rebuilt with a terracotta facade by Montreal architect David Jerome Spence. It was in this theatre, where The Great Houdini escape artist had a performance engagement on October 22 of 1926.


The Great Harry Houdini

Relaxing backstage at the theatre, Houdini was talking to a few students from McGill University. Asked by one of them – Gordon Whitehead -“whether it was true that punches in the stomach did not hurt him”, Houdini boasted he could and would prove it to the boy, but before he could tighten his stomach and prepare himself, Whitehead punched him unexpectedly and so forcefully, that his apendix ruptured. Instead of seeking medical help, Harry Houdini decided to complete his show as planned that night. After Montreal, he traveled to Detroit, where he performed before a packed house at the Garrick Theatre on October 24. Being in great pain, and with a high fever he collapsed during the performance, and was rushed to Grace Hospital, where he died on October 31, 1926. He was only 52 years old.

Original Princess Theatre (BAnQ-Massicotte)


Gala Opening advertising ad – The Gazette, Oct. 3, 1908

The Princess was renamed Le Parisien in 1963, and underwent renovations including closing of the upper balcony. In 1974 the theatre closed for more renovations and was re-opened as a five-screen cinema. In 1977, it hosted the first Montreal World Film Festival, one of Canada’s oldest international film festivals and the only competitive film festival in North America accredited by the FIAPF. In 1989 it became part of the Famous Players chain and two more screens were added, making it a seven-screen, 2184 seat theatre. It eventually became a low-cost cinema showing French language only movies. In 2002 a fire destroyed one auditorium and damaged six others.

Cinema Le Parisien closed on April 12, 2007.

The building is located at 476 St. Catherine street west

476 St. Catherine street W. – 2016

Source: movie-theatre.org / The Gazette / Coolopolis / thegreatharryhoudini.com /

To see the article in the Montreal Times 22.70 May 27, 2017 edition please click on the above image
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