Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer noted for his sensational escape acts.
When America entered the First World War in 1917, Houdini tried to enlist in the army, but was rejected as being too old at age 43. Unable to fight, Houdini preformed free shows for service men, during which he would produce five dollar gold pieces from the air and toss them to the audience.
After the war, Houdini became an actor, appearing in a 13-part silent film serial called The Master of Mystery. The series was sufficiently successful that Houdini was hired to make two feature films.
When those films performed poorly at the box office, Houdini blamed the movie company and opted to make his own movies. He formed a production company with his brother Theo, and controlled every aspect of his next two films, The Man from Beyond and Haldane of the Secret Service. Like his earlier movies, they featured daring stunts and escapes, but also like the earlier movies, they were not successful. Though some of the action sequences were thrilling, critics panned Houdini’s wooden acting and ineffective love scenes. He was so embarrassed at having to kiss another woman onscreen that he gave his wife five dollars every time he did so. Accepting defeat, Houdini gave up on the film business.