Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Five Best Abbott & Costello Movies

Abbott and Costello as a ghost.
1. The Time of Their Lives - I doubt if many A&C fans would rank this effort over #2 below, especially because Bud and Lou aren't a team in this outing. However, I stand by this choice, as it's their most original comedy with a good story, nice performances...and it's very funny. In a prologue set in 1780, Lou and Majorie Reynolds play American Revolutionary patriots who are mistakenly killed as traitors. Their ghosts are condemned to roam the Kings Point estate until their innocence can be proven. When the estate is restored 166 years later, the two ghosts have an opportunity to uncover the evidence that will free them. Bud gets to play two roles and the first-rate supporting cast include Gale Sondergaard and Binnie Barnes.

Glenn Strange and Costello.
2. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - I adore the wonderfully wacky premise: Count Dracula has recently experienced difficulty with controlling the Frankenstein Monster, so he wants to replace the Monster’s brain. Dr. Sandra Mornay (a female mad scientist—a nice touch) has chosen Costello's brain because of its simplicity. When Lou's character discovers Dracula’s plot, he quips: “I've had this brain for thirty years. It hasn't done me any good!” Packed with many of their best routines, this classic comedy was added the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2001.

3. Hold That Ghost - It used to be that comedians were seemingly required to do a "haunted house" movie. This 1941 classic was actually Bud and Lou's intended follow-up to Buck Privates. It was delayed when another service comedy, In the Navy, was released to theaters first. Hold That Ghost features one of their most famous routines: the moving candle. The plot has the boys inheriting a haunted tavern from a gangster. There's a hidden stash of cash plus a great cast featuring Universal scream queen Evelyn Ankers, Joan Davis, Shemp Howard, and the Andrews Sisters. Alas, the producers added some unnecessary songs, but that's the only drawback.

4. The Naughty Nineties - Take Showboat, insert Abbott & Costello, and you've got The Naughty Nineties. Although the duo originated their "Who's on First" routine many years earlier, this version is considered the definitive one. In fact, it runs continuously at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum and is one of the museum most popular attractions. The Naughty Nineties includes several famous burlesque gags such as the mirror routine and the swapping of glasses (one of which filled with poison). Plus, there's the "Higher/Lower" bit with Costello singing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." I recommend you check it on YouTube!

5. Who Done It? -  In this outing, Bud and Lou play soda jerks who aspire to be radio mystery writers. They catch a break when they're given tickets to watch a recording of the popular radio series "Murder at Midnight"--which, of course, ends up resulting in an actual murder. Notable as their first comedy without musical numbers Who Done It? features some of the duo's best routines: Costello trying to make a limburger cheese sandwich; Lou trying to make a call on a payphone; and a gag about volts and watts with wordplay similar to "Who's on First?"(which is referenced twice).

Honorable MentionsThe Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man.

6 comments:

  1. Apropos post for a Sunday, since me and many other tri-staters (NY, NJ, CT) grew up watching Bud n' Lou on Sunday mornings, 11:30, WPIX.

    I definitely fall into the camp you describe and would place MEET FRANKENSTEIN at the top with TIME OF THEIR LIVES not even placing. I was never a big fan of the comedies set in different times, like their vanity projects JACK AND THE BEANSTALK and MEET CAPTAIN KIDD.

    My personal top five--and it's a list based solely on what I like and the ones I always return to with a reckless disregard of artistic merit: (1) MEET FRANKENSTEIN, (2) RIDE 'EM COWBOY (with singing cowboy Dick Foran), (3) PARDON MY SARONG, (4) WHO DONE IT? and (5) MEET THE MUMMY. Honorable mentions to HIT THE ICE, IN SOCIETY, and AFRICA SCREAMS. It's tough to narrow down a short list--so many are great and all are worth watching, yes, even DANCE WITH ME, HENRY!

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    1. I like all of the monster-themed A&C films. In fact, MEET THE MUMMY includes one of my favorite routines in which Bud and Lou each try to slip the other one the dangerous medallion (and Lou winds up eating it in a hamburger!).

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  2. You get no argument here. I'm mad for The Time of Their Lives. Bud and Lou meeting Sondergaard is surely a rival for any Universal monster.

    I might place Who Done It? higher, but then I'd be fighting with the hubby over where to put The Naughty Nineties.

    I am maybe not that big a fan of Hold That Ghost, but I rather like the musical interludes. That's just the kinda hairpin I am.

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  3. I guess I agree with your list, Rick. I love THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN equally though. I would have a hard time putting one above the other.

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  4. Kind of like selecting your top 5 AC/DC albums. The list will change frequently, practically every one of their works is a contender, but there's one constant on just about every list...with MEET FRANKENSTEIN being A and C's BACK IN BLACK.

    That said, I'd have a second constant, for I'd have to find a spot for THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH; "Mudder/Fodder", the dentist scene and the rare opportunity to have the hilarious Leon Errol co-starring with the boys puts that one high on my list.

    The special effects in INVISIBLE MAN would probably put it into my top 5 as well, though THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF could just as easily get that spot.

    And for me, BUCK PRIVATES has to be there more often than not.

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  5. Wilbur: Well that's gonna cost you overtime because I'm a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.
    McDougal: A union man only works eight hours a day.
    Wilbur: I belong to two unions.

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