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The Abbott and Costello Show - Season One

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Old 09-10-2008, 05:42 PM   #1
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TV Lou Costello's Serious Side

In her affectionate biography of her father, Lou's on First (1981), Chris Costello remembers Lou's rare
dramatic appearance on television's Wagon Train [I have the episode on VHS, and he gave a truly
memorable performance.]:

Howard Christie was now producing Wagon Train for television and a story came up which he felt
was right for Dad. He had seen the General Electric Theater episode and felt Dad had the ability to
do a beautiful job in a straight acting role. The story was "The Tobias Jones Story," in which Dad
played the role of a drunk. Howard very capably describes the situation:

" ... From the moment Lou walked on that sound stage at Universal to do 'Tobias Jones,' there was
never any sign of nervousness. He threw every ounce of himself into that part and did a brilliant job
as the hopeless drunk, a character named Tobias Jones, accused of murdering a man on a wagon
train. He was magnificent."

Harry Von Zell, Dad's old friend who had been the announcer on the Fred Allen Show, was the
official writer for Dad's segment of Wagon Train. He describes a scene which shows just how
dramatic my father could get:

"There was one scene between Lou and the little girl (Beverly Washburn) that runs maybe ten
minutes. She's trying to reason with Tobias, reaching into this man to try and bring him out of his
funk. Prior to the scene being shot, the makeup lady came over with her tear-producing glycerine to
make him able to cry in the scene. I went over to her and said, 'Why don't we rehearse Lou first
without the glycerine? He might be uncomfortable thinking you have to give him something to produce
the tear effect.' She agree.

"When it came time to shoot, Lou was crying crocodile tears. That little girl reached him so much and
so impressively, he was actually crying real tears. After the show aired, Lou gave Beverly Washburn
all the credit. He inisted it was the little girl who brought out that dramatic quality in him. I don't think it
ever occurred to him for one minute that he already had that quality inside him."

Because of the great notices he received for his performance, he was approached by a producer to
star him in a dramatic play on Broadway--but that never took place. Dad's last acting role was now
behind him.
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