Abbott and Costello (series)
Synopsis of Movie
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, straight man and boisterous “baaaaad boy,” formed one of the most successful comedy teams in Hollywood history. Over the course of their two-decade partnership, the quick-tongued tandem found fame in vaudeville, radio, Broadway, television and perhaps most famously, on the silver screen. The team that brought us the immortal “Who’s On First” routine also left a legacy of more than 40 films (features and shorts) and taught the world that comedy and horror weren’t mutually exclusive.
William Alexander ‘Bud’ Abbott and Louis ‘Lou’ Francis Cristillo (later Costello) first met while both were performing on the vaudeville stage in New York City. The two made their partnership official in 1936, and were soon discovered by radio's The Kate Smith Hour. It was on this program that “Who’s On First” came to the national attention, rocketing Abbott and Costello to fame. By 1939, the duo had signed a movie deal with Universal Pictures, and their joint movie career had begun.
Abbott and Costello’s first on-screen appearance came in 1940’s One Night in the Tropics, but the two were merely supporting players, livening up the film’s love story with comic relief (including an abridged “Who’s On First”). In the eyes of most, Abbott and Costello stole the show, and Universal decided it was time for a starring role.
1941’s Buck Privates gave Bud and Lou top billing, playing Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown, respectively. Slicker and Herbie are a pair of would-be tie salesmen who try to get by without a license. When a no-nonsense cop tries to bust them, the two escape by enlisting in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, once they arrive in Boot Camp, they find that the very same cop is now their drill instructor.
Buck Privates was a smash hit, and Abbott and Costello’s movie comedy career was set. The film also got a lift from the popular singing group The Andrews Sisters, who set wartime hearts aflutter with catchy tunes like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Military life made good comedy for a pair of goofballs like Bud and Lou, and Universal kept the streak going with Keep ‘Em Flying (an Air Force picture) and In the Navy. The Andrews Sisters returned for the latter film, as sister Patty Andrews played the love interest of Bud and Lou’s crooning shipmate, Tommy Halstead (Dick Powell).
Still in 1941, Abbott and Costello debuted their first comedy/horror picture, Hold That Ghost. In it, the two play service station attendants Chuck Murray and Ferdinand Jones, who end up as sole heirs to a gangster’s fortune. Before they can retrieve it, however, Chuck and Ferdinand end up stuck in a haunted house.
Hold That Ghost was a definite success, but the team’s most popular comedy/horror films were yet to come. In the meantime, Abbott and Costello jumped across several genres: crime (Who Done It?), musical (Rio Rita), Western (Ride ‘Em Cowboy), period piece (The Naughty Nineties) and more. No matter the format, Bud and Lou were comic gold, becoming international stars.
In 1948, the duo made the first of several highly unusual team-ups with other legendary celebrities. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein set the standard for the comedy/horror genre, pitting Bud and Lou (as Chick Young and Wilbur Grey) against a truly fearsome threesome: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. All three monster roles were played by legitimate horror actors (Bela Lugosi, House of Frankenstein’s Glenn Strange, and Lon Chaney, Jr., respectively), making sure that the chills were just as real as the chuckles.
In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Chick and Wilbur are a pair of freight handlers who come across a very unusual load. A European house of horrors is gearing up for a big event, and they’ve shipped in the real Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster as an attraction. Due to Chick and Wilbur’s bumbling, Dracula awakens, and the Count carries away the Monster. Dracula takes on a lovely female assistant in Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert), but the Monster needs a new brain to function properly. Drac and Dr. Mornay kidnap Wilbur, but “Wolf Man” Larry Talbot shows up to help Chick find and rescue his lost buddy before it’s too late.
The movie was an international smash, and Abbot and Costello continued to team up with Universal’s stable of movie monsters: “The Killer, Boris Karloff,” The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Mummy. The duo also met film comedy pioneers The Keystone Kops and legendary pirate Captain Kidd (played by Mutiny on the Bounty’s Charles Laughton) in separate films.
Even during their Abbott and Costello Meet… years, the tandem continued to make other films, including the safari spoof Africa Screams and a memorable retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. In 1956, their final film, Dance With Me Henry, was released, and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello announced their amicable split.
Costello passed away a few years later, sadly dashing any hopes for a comeback or reunion, but the two left behind a comic legacy that continues to win new fans in every generation.
Movie Release History1940 - One Night in the Tropics
1941 - Buck Privates
1941 - Keep 'Em Flying
1941 - In the Navy
1941 - Hold That Ghost
1942 - Pardon My Sarong
1942 - Who Done It?
1942 - Rio Rita
1942 - Ride 'Em Cowboy
1943 - It Ain't Hay
1943 - Hit the Ice
1944 - Lost in a Harem
1944 - In Society
1945 - The Naughty Nineties
1945 - Here Come the Co-eds
1945 - Abbott and Costello in Hollywood
1946 - The Time of Their Lives
1946 - Little Giant
1947 - The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap
1947 - Buck Privates Come Home
1948 - The Noose Hangs High
1948 - Mexican Hayride
1948 - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
1949 - Africa Screams
1949 - Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
1950 - Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
1951 - Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
1951 - Comin' Round the Mountain
1952 - Lost in Alaska
1952 - Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd
1952 - News of the Day
1952 - Jack and the Beanstalk
1953 - Abbott and Costello Go to Mars
1953 - Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
1955 - Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops
1955 - Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
1956 - Dance With Me Henry
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
Movie StudioUniversal, MGM, Warner Bros., United Artists
CastBud Abbott Himself, Various Roles
Lou Costello Himself, Various Roles