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The Abbott And Costello Show was a syndicated series that ran from 1952 until 1954 and produced 52 episodes.
Critics hated this show. Audiences found it screamingly funny, so much so that it became one of the most successful and most repeated syndicated programs in television history.
It certainly was low-brow slapstick in its purest form,full of terrible puns, improbable situations, and lots of knockabout physical comedy. Set in Hollywood California, there was a story line of sorts which had Bud ( Bud Abbott, the tall , debonair one ), and Lou (Lou Costello, the short silly one ), as unemployed actors sharing an apartment in a rooming house run by Mr. Fields ( Sid Fields), who was always hounding them for back rent. Lou's girlfriend, Hillary( Hillary Brooke), , lived across the hall. Also living in the boardinghouse was Stinky( Joe Besser), a malevolent brat, who'd grab Lou's arm and threaten, " I'll harm you" ( though a grown man, Stinky was always dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit). Other more or less regular characters were Mike the cop( Gordon Jones), and Mr. Bacciagalupe( Joe Kirk), who had different occupations depending on the episode. Appearing frequently in different roles were Joan Shawlee, Bobby Barber (The short bald one), and Milt Bronson.
Each program began with a premise, often some scheme of Lou's to make money or avoid paying bills, but soon disintegrated into a succession of unrelated skits and gags. Essentially, the series was a showcase for all the old material Bud and Lou had been using on stage and in films since the 1930's. They might be at a charity bazaar(where they could work in the " Lemon Bit"), or stranded in a haunted house( good excuse for the " Moving Candle" routine), or in an old folks home full of loonies who were having a baseball game with an imaginary ball ( up popped their classic " Who's on First?" routine). Some episodes were complete steals from old silent comedies, including a virtual reenactment of Buster Keaton's short " One Week" in which a jealous suitor sabotages the house Lou has built for his fiance.
Lou Costello was the spark plug of all this frenzy. He was a natural comic, full of gags, and practical jokes on screen and off. During filming, even when the action shifted elsewhere, the director kept one camera on Costello so as not to miss any impromptu bits of business. Lou owned the show and after the first half-dozen episodes installed his brother Pat Costello as producer.
After the first 26 episodes were filmed, changes were made. Brooke, Kirk, Besser, and Shawlee departed ( as did the boys pet Bingo the chimp, who had made the mistake of bitting Costello). Director Jean Yarborough tried to get things more organized, with more consistant story lines and a new gag writer Clyde Bruckman, for Abbott and Costello were running out of their old material. In all only 52 episodes were filmed, but these were highly popular-critics notwithstanding-and were rerun endlessly over the next decades. One New York station is said to have aired each one of the 52 more than 200 times. It was one of the last great successes for the top comedy team of the 1940's, whose films, radio show, and Colgate Comedy Hour appearances entertained millions. The pair finally broke up in 1957. Costello the human dynamo, was worn out by the time he reached his fifties; he died in 1959, at the age of 52. Abbott passed away in 1974.
A detailed and appreciative account of Abbott and Costello's career, including full details on the tv series, can be found in The Abbott And Costello Book by Jim Mulholland, published in 1975.
An Article From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Published: March 12, 1952
Lou Costello Urges Code Of TV Behavior
HOLLYWOOD (AP)-Lou Costello dropped his usual role of funnyman today and urged his fellow comics to adopt a code for television behavior.
"Television can be a tremendous force for good or for evil," remarked the little comedian. "Today's kids are influenced greatly by what they see on TV. And some of the comedy material on TV can certainly do them harm.
"Some comedians don't realize that they can't use the same material on TV that they use in night clubs, on the stage or even in pictures. The fact is that the kid audience is the most important factor in TV. Kids can make or break a comedian. And its important that comics do not use material that will give them wrong ideas."
Among the principal offenders, added Costello, are the comics who use unmanly gestures such as stroking the eyebrow with the finger or flouncing around with hand on hip.
"They think they get laughs that way," he said. "But the routine of acting like a woman has never seemed funny to me. Think how it would be if young boys started imitating those things. Their parents would be horrified.
"I've always steered away from that sort of thing. On my first TV show, they wanted me to dress up like Carmen Miranda and do a song number. I refused. I don't know how to act like a woman."
Costello also criticized comics who go into contortions as though they were victims of a disabling disease. Ed Wynn, also a critic of this brand of humor, calls it "spastic comedy."
"I think it's a mistake to poke fun at any person's infirmity, directly or indirectly," said Costello. "Imagine how the afflicted people must feel! That's why we never use stuttering for comedy."
He added that he was also alarmed by the use of drunkenness in an effort to get laughs.
"How would you like to come home and find your child had found some liquor and drank it, because it seemed funny when a comedian did it on TV?" he asked. "It's entirely possible."
Abbott and Costello have another rule concerning their comedy: "Don't scare the kids. But they had to learn it the hard way.
Costello told the story of getting a phone call from a mother in Kansas City. At first, he thought it was going to be a touch for money.But the mother explained that she was seeking his help because her 8-year-old daughter had been frightened by the Frankenstein monster who menaced Abbott and Costello in a picture. Medical and psychiatric aid couldn't overcome the girl's bad dreams.
Costello had the mother and daughter fly out and stay in his home for two weeks. During that time, he showed the girl the make-believe of the movies. He took her into the makeup department and stomped on a Frankenstein mask. Still she was frightened. At the end of her stay, he held her hand while she saw the Frankenstein film. He hit at the screen when the monster came on. Finally the girl overcame her fear.
" That taught me a lesson," Costello remarked. "From then on, we've had nothing that would really frighten the kids. Even in my picture, 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' there's nothing really frightening. Buddy Baer plays the giant, but we treat him lightly, instead of as a real menace."
Here is Lou Costello's Obituary from the Milwaukee Journal, published on March 4, 1959.
Death Takes Lou Costello
Comedian was 52
HOLLYWOOD,CAL.-Jolly, chubby Lou Costello, the slap happy member of the famed Abbott and Costello comedy team, died here Tuesday after a heart attack.
The attack-his second within a week-took the 52 year old comedian's life only minutes after he had sent his wife home from the hospital with a wisecrack to cook dinner for the couple's youngest child.
He turned to a nurse and said he wanted to be rolled over on his side.
"I think I'll be more comfortable," were his final words.
And thus ended the comedy career of a modern day Pagliacci who made a world laugh away two wars and the hydrogen bomb while he clowned through a personal life filled with illness and tragedy.
Six Serious Illnesses
In a decade from 1943-1953 Costello suffered six serious illnesses-four of them rheumatic fever attacks. In 1943 his only son, infant Lou Costello Jr., wandered into the family swimming pool and drowned.
Costello dedicated his life from then on to making children laugh but, in doing so, he made presidents laugh too.
Bud Abbott and Costello performed their famous "Who's on first?" baseball routine five times for the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who told them it was his all time comedy favorite.
Costello, who was born in Patterson, N.J., was a burlesque comic when he teamed up with Abbott in Brooklyn in 1930. Abbott was drafted from the cashier's office when Costello's straight man failed to show up, and the team clicked from the start.
Box Office Favorites
Once they hit their stride in Hollywood they turned out a string of box office hits that put them among the top 10 moneymakers in the movies for most of the decade from 1941-1951.
Their films including "Buck Privates," "In the Navy," "Mexican Hayride," "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," and "Hold That Ghost," helped keep Universal-International studio afloat during one movie depression.
But they kept little of the money. They got into trouble with the income tax people, lived high and loved to gamble.
In 1947, Costello founded the Lou Costello, Jr., Youth Foundation for Underprivileged Children. Abbott and Costello contributed and operated foundation on a 50-50 basis. They poured more than a quarter of a million dollars into the project.
Team Split in 1957
Since the comedy team broke up two years ago, Costello appeared on tv shows and in an unreleased movie as a "single."
On hearing the news of Costello's death, Abbott sobbed. "What can I say? What can I say? It's the worst thing that ever happened. Poor little Lou. He's dead. He's dead."
Abbott said he was watching a rerun of an old Abbott and Costello comedy routine on his TV set when he got the news.
Costello's survivors include his wife, Ann, and three daughters, Patricia, 22; Carol Lou, 20; and Christine, 11. Requiem high mass will be Saturday in St. Francis de Sales Catholic church, studio city.
Here is Bud Abbott's Obituary from the Milwaukee Sentinel published on April 25, 1974.
Abbott Dies; Costello's Straight Man
LOS ANGELES, Calif., -AP-Bud Abbott, 78, who made and lost millions as straight man to Lou Costello in their "Who's on First?," routines for movies, radio and television shows, died of cancer Wednesday at his Woodline Hills home.
The slender acerbic Abbott had done little performing since the death of his rotund partner 15 years ago. In recent years he had suffered a series of strokes, and he lived with his wife, Betty, in a modest home that contrasted with the high living he enjoyed in his heyday.
Partners for 32 years, Abbott and Costello scored a sensation in their first movie, "Buck Privates," in 1941.For a decade they remained among the top 10 money making film stars, earning a million dollars a year.
"They were making big money and they thought it would never stop," their longtime manager, Eddie Sherman remarked after Abbott's death. "They spent it all each year, forgetting they had a partner-Uncle Sam."
The two comedians also gambled heavily, and they were stuck with tax bills at a time when their careers were waning.Abbott was forced to sell his $250,000 house and the rest of his property.
In 1960 he was able to say, "I don't owe nothing to nobody, and that's the way it's going to stay." By that time Lou Costello was dead-they had split as a team in 1957. Abbott tried teaming with Candy Candido, but it didn't work.
"Bud couldn't take working with anyone else," explained Sherman. "He said nobody could ever live up to Lou."
In their prime, Abbott and Costello were a perfect team-Lou the boyish combination of pranks and innocence;Bud, part father figure, part con man. Their timing was impeccable, and ABBOTT was acknowledged as the best feeder (straight man)in show business.
To see clips from The Abbott and Costello Show go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=abbott+and+costello+show&aq=0
For The Official Abbott and Costello Website go to http://www.abbottandcostello.net/
For Tims TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20100114112042/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/abbcost.html
For an episode guide of The Abbott and Costello Show go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/AbbottAndCostelloTV.htm
To listen to radio episodes of The Abbott and Costello Show go to http://zootradio.com/Abbott_And_Costello.php
For a review of The Abbott And Costello Show go to https://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/reviews/the-abbott-and-costello-show
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo99t0fNIQw
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Keywords: The Abbott And Costello Show (Links Updated 5/3/2017)