NAME: William Alexander “Bud” Abbott … BORN: October 2, 1895 in Asbury Park, New Jersey … DIED: April 24, 1974 (aged 78) in Woodland Hills, California … YEARS ACTIVE: 1924-1967 … NOTABLE MOVIES: Abbott and Costell Meet Frankenstein, The Naughty Nineties, Who Done It … OSCARS: 0 nominations … NOTABLE RELATIONSHIPS: spouse: Betty Smith (m. 1918–1974)
NAME: Louis Francis Cristillo … BORN: March 6, 1906 in Paterson, New Jersey … DIED: March 3, 1959 (aged 52) in Beverly Hills, California … YEARS ACTIVE: 1926-1959 … NOTABLE MOVIES: Abbott and Costell Meet Frankenstein, The Naughty Nineties, Who Done It … OSCARS: 0 nominations … NOTABLE RELATIONSHIPS: spouse: Anne Battler (1934–1959)
The story of Abbott and Costello could play out as the archetypical story of feuding comedians, pals on stage, enemies off. The type of story that Neil Simon sentimentalized for his play “The Sunshine Boys” (and made into a funny movie starring Walter Mattheau and George Burns).
Abbott and Costello could also serve as a warning about hubris. A couple of burlesque comedians who unexpectedly made the big time, their movies were popular during World War II and their “Who’s On First” routine became a classic (which also inspired a variation by the comedy group The Credibility Gap involving rock bands from the 1960s, with The Who, The Guess Who and Yes standing in for Who, What and I Don’t Know).
Anyway, making it gave the boys license for all kinds of bad behavior. They make demands for special treatment on the set, especially when they were loaned to MGM for “Lost in a Harem.” According to Edmund Hartmann (interviewed for “Schmucks with Underwoods” by Max Wilk), once the boys experienced how the studio treated their stars, they came back to Universal with swelled heads:
They came back, and Lou had a list of demands: “From now on, there will be no more retakes. We will shoot scenes once ? and only once. Got it?” . . . “If we decide to play a game of cards on the set, the shooting will be suspended until we finish the game. Understand?” . . . “I will have my private dressing room here on the set from now on, and when my door is closed, nobody will disturb me until I come out . . . nobody ? and you know damn well why! Is that understood?”
Artist Drew Friedman created several strips about the duo that were published in “Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental”: “The Abbott and Costello Story,” “Old Bud Abbott” and “The Lou Costello Jr. Story,” which dramatized the death of Lou Costello’s son, who drowned in the family swimming pool.
QUOTES BY AND ABOUT
They were a couple of mugs, you know. They were at heart burlesque comedians, burlesque mentalities. .. They were very undisciplined, real slobs as far as the work was concerned. They owed themselves a lot better than they allowed themselves to become.
Nat Perrin, screenwriter
Abbott and Costello: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbott_and_Costello
Bud Abbott: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud_Abbott
Lou Costello: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Costello
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/AbbottAndCostelloMeetFrankenstein
“Who’s On First” routine: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhosOnFirst