Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today July 28th "Lost in Alaska" opened in 1952.

The time is the 1890s, and the place is San Francisco. George Ball (Lou Costello) and Tom Watson (Bud Abbott) are firemen who rescue 'Nugget' Joe McDermott (Tom Ewell) from committing suicide by drowning. Joe wants to die because his girlfriend, Rosette (Mitzi Green) no longer loves him. He tells George and Tom about his fortune in gold that he has stashed in Alaska, and they decide to keep an eye on him. Joe receives a letter from Rosette claiming that she still loves him. He returns to Alaska, with George and Tom in tow. Once they arrive, it is learned that many people want to kill Joe, as he was once the local sheriff who had many people hanged.
Rosette works at a casino whose owner, Jake Stillman (Bruce Cabot), demands that she marry Joe, whom Jake plans to kill once he is married to Rosette, so that he can marry her and gain the fortune in gold.
Rosette reveals Jake's intent to George and Tom, who hide Joe and Rosette by sending them out of town. Jake is not happy about this turn of events and sends his gang to deal with George and Tom, who manage to outwit them. In the ensuing melee, the gold falls into a deep crevice in the ice, and is lost. Everyone manages to overcome their greed for the sake of friendship, and Joe and Rosette marry. (synapsis from Wikipedia)



Friday, July 24, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today July 18th "Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion" opened in 1950. Bud Jones (Bud Abbott) and Lou Hotchkiss (Lou Costello) are wrestling promoters. Their star, Abdullah (Wee Willie Davis), no longer wishes to follow the script for their crooked matches, especially since he is supposed to lose his next match. Abdullah leaves America to return to his homeland, Algeria. The promoters' financiers, a syndicate that has lent them $5,000 to bring Abdullah to the States, are now requiring them to return the money or face the consequences. The two men follow Abdullah to Algeria in hopes of bringing him back.
Meanwhile, Abdullah's cousin, Sheik Hamud El Khalid (Douglass Dumbrille) and a crooked Foreign Legionnaire, Sergeant Axmann (Water Slezak), have been raiding a railroad construction site in order to extort "protection" money from the railroad company. When Bud and Lou arrive, they are mistaken for company spies, and the Sheik and Axmann attempt to murder them. As each attempt fails, the assassins' hatred for Bud and Lou intensifies, especially when Lou outbids the Sheik for six slave girls, one of whom, Nicole (Patricia Medina), is actually a French spy assigned to gain entry into the Sheik's camp. The boys are then chased, only to wind up hiding at the Foreign Legion headquarters, where Axmann convinces them to join.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Legion Commandant (Fred Nurney) suspects that there is a traitor among the Legionnaires, as the Sheik anticipates every one of the Legion's moves. The Commandant then grants Bud and Lou a pass into town where they meet up with Nicole. She informs them that they must search Axmann's room, but he catches them in the act. However, they are spared, only to end up at a Legionnaire desert camp. Just before the camp is ambushed by the Sheik's men, Bud and Lou wander off in search of a camel, and escape death. They are eventually captured, along with Nicole, who is put in Sheik Hamud's harem. The Shiek orders that one of his wrestlers execute them. The wrestler turns out to be Abdullah, who helps them escape. They head to Fort Apar, where they lure the Sheik's men, and blow it up. They are given awards by the Commandant and discharged from the Legion. (synapsis from Wikipedia)


Friday, July 17, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today July 18th "Comin' Round the Mountain" opened in 1951. Theatrical agent Al Stewart (Bud Abbott) has successfully booked his client, Dorothy McCoy (Dorothy Shay), "The Manhattan Hillbilly", at a New York nightclub. Unfortunately, he has also booked an inept escape artist, The Great Wilbert (Lou Costello), at the same location. During his performance, Wilbert cannot escape from his shackles and screams for help. Dorothy recognizes Wilbert's shrill scream as the 'McCoy clan yell'. More evidence of Wilbert's heritage, namely a photograph and concertina, are found in his dressing room, and prove that he is the long-lost grandson of 'Squeeze Box' McCoy, leader of the McCoy clan. Granny McCoy (Ida Moore) has been looking for Wilbert, as she will reveal where Squeeze Box hid his gold to 'kin folk' only. Al, Dorothy and Wilbert head to Kentucky, and Granny recounts the story of the McCoy-Winfield feud that began over sixty years ago. The McCoys choose Wilbert to represent them against Devil Dan Winfield (Glenn Strange) in a turkey shoot. Wilbert has never even seen a gun before, and his carelessness leads to a revival of the feud.
Granny informs Wilbert that even though he is Squeeze Box's kin, he must get married before the location of the gold can be revealed. Wilbert proposes to Dorothy, who declines because she is in love with Clark Winfield (Kirby Grant). Wilbert then goes to Aunt Huddy (Margaret Hamilton) to obtain a love potion to use on Dorothy. While obtaining the potion, Huddy and Wilbert make voodoo dolls of each other and proceed to stick pins in them, which inflicts pain in the other person. After finally obtaining the potion, Wilbert gets on Huddy's broom (complete with windshield and wipers), flies through the door, and crashes into a tree.
The potion initially works well, as Dorothy does fall for Wilbert, but unfortunately, everyone gets a sip of the concoction and falls in love. The potion's effects eventually fade, and Clark and Dorothy prepare to marry. The Winfield clan soon arrive ready for a fight, during which a stray bullet breaks the love potion jar, leading Devil Dan to taste it and fall for Wilbert. Soon afterwards, a map leading to the treasure is found in Wilbert's concertina. Devil Dan helps them enter the mine, where they eventually break through the rock, finding themselves in a vault filled with gold. Armed guards arrive to arrest the hapless treasure seekers, who have just broken into Fort Knox. (synapsis from Wikipedia)


Monday, July 6, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today July 6th "The Naughty Nineties" opened in 1945. The time is the 1890s, and Captain Sam (Henry Travers), owner of the showboat River Queen, is travelling from port to port along the Mississippi River, bringing his entertainment to each town. During one stop, in the river town of Ironville, he meets up with three individuals, Crawford (Alan Curtis), Bonita (Rita Johnson), and Bailey (Joe Sawyer), who are hiding from the local sheriff. Against the advice of his daughter Caroline (Lois Collier), his lead actor Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott), and his chief roustabout Sebastian Dinwiddle (Lou Costello), the Captain joins them for a card game at a local gambling house.
The Captain is fed drink after drink until he is intoxicated and gets involved in a crooked card game where he loses controlling interest in the show boat to Bonita and Crawford. They use their newfound power to turn the showboat into a floating gambling casino with every game rigged in their favor. Dexter and Sebastian help the captain regain ownership of his vessel and oust the unwanted criminals. (synapsis from Wikipedia)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Review of Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films

Scott Allen Nollen
Abbott and Costello on the Home Front
A Critical Study of the Wartime Films
North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc, 2009
212pp. $55.00
ISBN 978-0-7864-3521-0
www.mcfarlandpub.com 800-253-2187

In Scott Allen Nollen's new book Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films, his goal was to examine "the production, content, and reception of 18 films within the context of wartime events on the home front and abroad." Although, he does succeed in his goal of discussing the film's production, content and reception; he fails to relate them to the events of the time.

He brings a love and new insight to the material that makes the book an enjoyable read. More importantly, he adds new anecdotes and stories that have been revealed, in recent years, which adds, immensely, to the overall depth and understanding of these two great Comedians but at no point does the book tie together nor fulfills the promise of putting these stories into the context of this traumatic time in American history.

In 1975, Jim Mulholland wrote the quintessential book on Abbott and Costello, The Abbott and Costello Book; since then, no one has been able to recapture the life and career of this great comedic team. Scott Allen Nollen, in this book, comes as close as anyone since Jim Mulholland.

The book is well written and in a style that is easily understood; it is illustrated with some amazing photos and lobby cards, from the author's personal collection, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the book and because of this it is a must read for any Abbott and Costello fan. However, it fails to deliver a critical study but rather is a retelling of the Mulholland’s book in terms of these 18 films. Although it is well written and has new insight, it could have been greatly improved had he only given us what he had promised.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today July 2nd "Hit the Ice" opened in 1943. Flash Fulton (Bud Abbott) and Weejie McCoy (Lou Costello) take pictures of a bank robbery. Lured to the mountain resort hideout of the robbers and accompanied by Dr. Bill Elliott (Patric Knowles) and Peggy Osborn (Elyse Knox), they also meet old friend Johnny Long (Himself) and his band and singer Marcia Manning (Ginny Simms). Dr. Elliott and Peggy are being held in a remote cabin by the robbers, but Weejie rescues them by turning himself into a human snowball that becomes an avalanche that engulfs the crooks (synapsis from IMDB)