ABBOTT AND COSTELLO BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
The team of Abbott and Costello was one of the most remarkable and eminent comedy duos in show business history. The rapid word play and confusion in each of their skits quickly made them a popular pair, and thus their successful career in radio, television, and movies lasted over twenty years. The partnership consisted of Bud Abbott (October 2, 1895 – April 24, 1974) and Lou Costello (March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959).
Abbott had been working as a burlesque entertainer and was one of the top straight men in the business. Costello was a struggling actor who decided to go into burlesque comedy once he could find no work. Their paths crossed many times before they actually became a comedy team. In the 1930s they became friends, and in 1935 they first worked together at the Eltinge Theatre on 42nd Street in New York. However, their official teaming was in 1936. They modified different burlesque sketches into their own silly skits, where Abbott was the straight man and Costello was the foolish laugh-getter. They quickly became popular burlesque personalities, but it was not until they were featured on radio’s Kate Smith Hour in 1938 that they gained national exposure. It was there that they debuted with a version of their most famous act -- Who’s on First?, replacing Henny Youngman on the show for the next two years. This recognition led to their involvement in the 1939 Broadway musical The Streets of Paris, which was received well by Hollywood and many critics.
In 1939, due to the duo’s increasing fame, Universal Pictures had them sign a contract. Their first appearance was supporting roles in the musical One Night in the Tropics (1940). However, they stole the show with their hilarious antics, and Universal had them continue to perform in additional movies. The studio quickly signed them up to star in another film, Buck Privates (1941). Their stardom was extremely apparent after this role, and in October of 1941 their handprints and footprints were enshrined at Graumann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Soon after they performed in a succession of successful pictures like In the Navy (1942), Keep 'Em Flying (1942), Hold That Ghost (1942), and Who Done It? (1942). In 1942 they were voted as the #1 box office stars.
By 1945, the team had starred in fifteen features and was the biggest box office attraction during the first half of the decade. Their formula was simple: put Abbott and Costello in a respectable setting, have them cause pandemonium, and then leave room for some of their unbeaten comedy acts. Between 1940 and 1956 they made over thirty films. Their best known skit, Who’s on First?, was shown fully in The Naughty Nineties (1945). During the World War II era they were also wildly popular and among some of the highest paid entertainers. In addition, they helped the war effort by funding a cross-country tour to raise money for the War Bond Drive, providing $85 million for the government. All of this transpired while they continued to entertain audiences in pictures such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948), which became an international cult classic, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).
In 1951 the duo made their first television appearance, hosting The Colgate Comedy Hour, a live variety show. They performed on it a total of twenty times between 1951 and 1955. In 1952, Abbott and Costello launched their own thirty minute sitcom titled The Abbott and Costello Show, which ran until 1954. The series was later rebroadcast and even turned into VHS tapes and DVDS.
In the 1950s the team’s status started fading. They had been releasing two new films every year, Universal had been releasing their older hits, and they also had their own TV show and guest appearances. Their partnership began to dissipate. Abbott and Costello’s’ final picture was Dance with Me, Henry (1956).
In 1957 they split, with numerous features behind them including Rio Rita (1941), Here Come the Co-Eds (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1954).
Costello wanted to go on to have a solo career, appearing in one movie called The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959), but he died of a heart attack on March 3, 1959 before it was released. Abbott attempted a comeback in the 1960s, but found no success. However, in 1965 a compilation film was created called The World of Abbott and Costello. From 1966 to 1967, one hundred and fifty six five-minute Abbott and Costello cartoons were created. Fifteen years after the death of his partner, Abbott passed away on April 24, 1974.
Although they are both now gone, the impact they made will last forever. Abbott and Costello each have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- one for radio, one for television, and another for motion pictures. They have also had a number of books written about them, were given a commemorative US postage stamp, have had multiple television specials, and had two asteroid belts named after each of them. In addition, they have been referenced in a large variety of things, from the movie Rain Man (1988) to the kid’s television show Veggie Tales. Abbott and Costello’s legacy still thrives today, but no one has described the brilliance of their comedy better than Jerry Seinfeld when he stated, “If it weren't for Abbott and Costello, many of the wonderful burlesque routines which are a part of the American fabric would have been lost forever. They were giants of their time, who truly immortalized burlesque forever”.
1965 The World of Abbott and Costello
1956 Dance with Me, Henry
1955 Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
1955 Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops
1953 Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
1953 Abbott and Costello Go to Mars
1952 The Abbott and Costello Show
1952 Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd
1952 Lost in Alaska
1952 Jack and the Beanstalk
1951 Comin' Round the Mountain
1951 Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
1950 The Colgate Comedy Hour starring Abbott and Costello
1950 Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
1949 Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
1949 Africa Screams
1948 Mexican Hayride
1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
1948 The Noose Hangs High
1947 Buck Privates Come Home
1947 The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap
1946 The Time of Their Lives
1946 Little Giant
1945 Abbott and Costello in Hollywood
1945 The Naughty Nineties
1945 Here Come the Co-eds
1944 In Society
1944 Lost in a Harem
1943 Hit the Ice
1943 It Ain't Hay
1942 Rio Rita
1942 Who Done It?
1942 Pardon My Sarong
1942 Ride 'Em Cowboy
1941 Keep 'Em Flying
1941 Hold That Ghost
1941 In the Navy
1941 Buck Privates
1940 One Night in the Tropics