Sunday, August 16, 2009

On This Day in Abbott and Costello History

Today August 16th "The Time of their Lives" opened in 1946.

The time is 1780, and Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) is a master tinker. He travels to Tom Danbury's (Jess Barker) estate with a letter of commendation from General George Washington. He plans to present this letter to Danbury, whom he hopes to persuade into allowing Horatio to marry Nora O'Leary (Anne Gillis), Danbury's housemaid. Unfortunately, Horatio has a romantic rival in Cuthbert Greenway (Bud Abbott), Danbury's butler, who is very fond of Nora and intends to prevent Horatio from presenting his letter, which Nora has taken for safekeeping.
Nora happens to overhear Danbury discussing his part in Benedict Arnold's plot; Danbury captures her, and hides the commendation letter in a secret compartment of the mantel clock. Danbury's fiancée, Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds), witnesses the situation and sets off on horseback to warn Washington's army. She enlists Horatio's help, but the two of them are mistakenly shot by American troops that are arriving at the estate. The two are thrown down a well and condemned to remain bound to the estate unless evidence can prove their innocence. The soldiers ransack the house and burn it to the ground.
For the next 166 years, Horatio and Melody's ghosts roam the grounds of the estate before it is restored by Sheldon Gage (John Shelton). When the restoration is finished, complete with the "original" furniture (which was removed before the estate's fateful burning), Sheldon invites some friends to spend the night there. Accompanying him are his psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott), a descendant of Cuthbert, as well as Sheldon's fiancée, June Prescott (Lynn Baggett) and her Aunt Millie (Binnie Barnes).
Upon arriving, they are greeted by Emily (Gale Sondergaard), the maid who strongly believes that the estate is haunted. Ghosts Horatio and Melody have some fun with this idea and try to scare the guests, especially Greenway whom Horatio mistakens for Cuthbert. The newcomers hold a seance and learn the identities of the two ghosts, and of the letter which can free them. They search for the letter but soon learn that all of the furniture is not original, as the clock which holds the letter sits in a New York museum. Greenway, as a way of atoning for the cruelty of his ancestor, travels to the museum to retrieve the letter. However, unexpected events force him to steal it. He arrives back at the estate, with state police on his tail.
The letter has been found, and Melody and Horatio leave the estate to enter heaven. Unfortunately for Horatio, who is met at the gate by Nora, he must wait one more day, as Nora points to a sign that says heaven is "Closed for Washington's Birthday."
(synapsis from Wikipedia)

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