Beginning with the WWII years, the great comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello became a movie box-office phenomenon and remained so for more than a decade. Abbott & Costello starred in three dozen comedy movies from 1940 to 1956. Those made during WWII often put the comedy team into uniform: as soldiers, sailors or fly-boys who turned training camps into SNAFU-land. As the sharpie straightman, Bud Abbott dominated his stumbling but lovable buddy, comedian Lou Costello, and never understood why the ladies preferred chubby, bumbling Lou to lean and mean Bud.
In the late 40s, Abbott & Costello won more success in another genre: comedy horror pics. Their first and greatest was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Unquestionably their funniest and best-made movie in any genre, its effectiveness was also due to masterful Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman, and Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster. The result gave Bud and Lou their biggest critical and box office hit ever. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics award this movie 89%; their audiences rate it 85%. IMDB fans give it 7.4 out of 10. As users of both rating services know, these are very high ratings.
Bud Abbott was born into a circus family. As a teen, Bud worked as a Coney Island pitch man, where he honed his patter and timing before he ‘graduated’ into burlesque. Even 80 years later, Bud is recognized as one of the great ‘straightmen’—along with George Burns, Margaret Dumont, Chico Marx and Moe Howard (of The Three Stooges).
Lou had been a carpenter’s helper, movie stuntman, and semi-pro boxer before he, as a ‘third banana’ in burlesque, met up with Bud Abbott. Neither Bud nor Lou had been happy with their then on-stage partners, so they hooked up as Abbott & Costello. Bud and Lou zoomed to the top of comedy hierarchy–on Broadway, then radio, movies and television.
We’ve screened Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein twice in recent years: at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque and at the East Mountain Library branch in Tijeras. The laughter on every occasion was nearly non-stop. But comedy movies score best when watched in the company of others—difficult and potentially dangerous in the Era of Covid. Still it remains an excellent choice for a family movie, one that is spooky and funny without being embarrassing for parents or children. Make it your Halloween trick and treat? You can watch online free at dailymotion.com/video/x3940ic