Museum Silent Film Benefit and Art Auction a ‘magical’ success

The young Houdini fan pictured above was ready for the festival. Courtesy photo

Ninety-eight years after his first trip to Catalina Island, Harry Houdini returned over the weekend via a screening of Terror Island in the Avalon Casino Theatre for the Catalina Island Museum’s Annual Silent Film Benefit.

The Silent Film Benefit kicked off with a pre-film magic performance by Jim Bentley for members of the museum. Bentley’s performance involved lots of comedy and audience participation, including a finale in which audience members placed him in a straightjacket. Much like Houdini, he escaped in less than 60 seconds.

“Thanks to all who supported the museum by attending our Silent Film Benefit,” said Julie Perlin Lee, executive director of the Catalina Island Museum after the performance. “This year’s magical performance combined Harry Houdini stunts with live musical accompaniment by the best musicians in the business. Taking place in the beautiful and historic Avalon Theatre, this event is like no other offered on the island. I’d especially like to thank Michael Mortilla, the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and our special guests who lent items to our current exhibition Houdini: Terror on the Magic Isle.”

Although two of the original reels are missing and considered lost, the film featured amazing stunts by Houdini himself and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Attendees – many of whom were dressed in their 1920s best – were mesmerized by the live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla & The Accompanists on the Avalon Theatre stage.

“I’ve seen Terror Island with audiences both large and small on several occasions, but the museum’s Silent Film Benefit screening of it, combined with a beautifully performed and perfectly timed live score made it come to life as I’ve never experienced before,” said John Cox, Houdini expert and owner of the Wild About Harry blog. “The audience seemed entirely involved; they laughed and gasped in all the right places, and when the movie ended, they gave the musicians a standing ovation. I couldn’t help but think this was the celebratory premiere event that the movie never had in 1920. It was truly magical. Congratulations to everyone who made the event a success!”

This unique experience occurs only one day each year. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 18, 2019 to attend the 32nd Annual Silent Film Benefit featuring Colleen Moore in Why Be Good? The Silent Film Benefit demonstrates the museum’s mission to bring history, art, music and film to the community of Avalon and its visitors.

Tickets for next year’s event are on sale now! Tickets are $20 for members of the museum ($25 at the door), $23 for non-members ($28 at the door) and $10 for children ages 3-15. Purchasing tickets is easy. Please call 310-510-2414, visit the museum in person, or go to the calendar page at

The Catalina Island Museum offers the best in art and history exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building is located in the heart of Avalon at 217 Metropole Avenue. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: