Hardeen: The Other Houdini

Born today: Ferencz Dezso Weisz (1876-1945), the younger brother of Harry Houdini, professionally known as “Hardeen.” Called “Dash” by his family, Hardeen was, like his brother, born in Budapest and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin. He learned magic and escape artistry from his brother, and in the early years they performed as a team, The Brothers Houdini. In 1893 the pair were performing in Coney Island when Houdini met and married Bess Rahner, and she replaced Hardeen in the act.

At this stage Hardeen went out on his own as a solo in vaudeville, and the two brothers had something of a friendly rivalry going, as they both performed similar feats and illusions. Hardeen was very well respected in his field; not a mere shadow of his brother, he was generally regarded as someone who was almost as great as he, which was very good indeed. When Houdini died in 1926, Hardeen inherited his act, and could properly be advertised as his successor. He continued on with that billing in vaudeville for several years. In 1936, he starred in a Vitaphone short called Medium Well Done. From 1938 to 1941, he was in Olsen and Johnson’s Hellzapoppin. He entertained troops with the U.S.O. during the Second World War. In 1944 he founded the Magician’ Guild of America. The following year he died after a routine operation at the age of 69. His designated successor Douglas Geoffrey continued on with his act as Hardeen, Jr. 

To learn more about vaudeville and major stars like Hardeen consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,