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The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Vol. 2 [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Production notes for: Hit the Ice, In Society, Here Come the Co-Eds, The Naughty Nineties, Little Giant, Buck Privates Come Home, and The Wistful Window of Wagon Gap
  • Theatrical trailers for: In Society, The Time of Their Lives, and The Wistful Window of Wagon Gap
  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Here Come the Co-Eds
At 88 minutes, Here Come the Co-Eds is one of the longest of Abbott & Costello's Universal starring vehicles, and though not necessarily the best, it manages to sustain a high comic content throughout. The scene is a financially strapped girl's college, where professional dancer Molly (Martha O'Driscoll) lands a scholarship. Molly's manager-brother Slat (Bud Abbott) has arranged this as a means to publicize his sister's showbiz career, which angers the college's chairman of the board (Charles Dingle), who threatens to foreclose on the school. To keep tabs on Molly and also find ways of raising the mortgage money, Slats and his pal Oliver (Lou Costello) takes jobs as school caretakers, immediately running afoul of ill-tempered groundskeeper Johnson (Lon Chaney Jr.) One of Slats' schemes involves a championship basketball game, in which Oliver, hypnotized into thinking that he's petite female student "Daisy Dimple", effortlessly sinks one basket after another (Costello, a top high school athlete, performed these scenes without the aid of a double). What ultimately saves the college is a concert by Phil Spitalny and his all-girl orchestra, featuring "Evelyn and Her Magic Violin." While the obligatory chase scene in Here Come the Coeds (this time involving a sailboat on wheels!) is a disappointment, several of Abbott & Costello's comic setpieces are hilarious, notably the time-honored "Jonah and the Whale" routine and the "oyster in the chowder" bit. Funniest line: while performing a musical duet with costar Peggy Ryan, Costello sighs "I feel just like Donald O'Connor." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hit the Ice
The Abbott & Costello vehicle Hit the Ice started life as satire of health clinics, with Lou Costello cast as a hypochondriac who used a streetcar conductor's change-purse to dispense pills to himself. By the time the film hit the screens, it was a standard A&C melange of comedy, music and fast-paced chase scenes, with nary a pill in sight. Bud and Lou are cast as would-be photojournalists Flash and Tubby, who inadvertently snap a picture of two bank robbers leaving the scene of the crime. Accused of knocking over the bank themselves, our heroes find it expedient to hide out at a Sun Valley ski resort. Here they tie up with Silky Fellowsby (Sheldon Leonard), the mastermind of the bank heist, who is led to believe that Flash and Tubby are a couple of Detroit "hit men". In the course of events, Tubby falls in love with Silky's girl Marcia Manning (Ginny Simms), romancing her by pretending (with Flash's dubious assistance) to be an accomplished concert pianist. The final confrontation with the crooks leads to an elaborate chase on skis, with all manner of hilarious (and wildly impossible) sight gags. The barely necessary romantic subplot involves doctor Bill Elliot (Patric Knowles) and nurse Peggy Osborne (played by Elyse Knox, the mother of actor Mark Harmon). Best bits: the classic "packing-unpacking routine, a zany skating sequence, and the old "I'll bet I can stand next to you and you can't touch me" chestnut. Hit the Ice was Lou Costello's last film before rheumatic fever kept him off screen for a full year. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

In Society
For their first film in a year, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello played it safe with a medley of old burlesque routines and slapstick setpieces -- and never mind a coherent plot. The boys play Eddie and Albert, a pair of plumbers hired to fix the pipes of a fancy society mansion. While a masquerade party takes place on the first floor, our heroes wreak havoc in the bathroom on the second floor. The angry owners (Thurston Hall, Netta Packer) shoot off a letter of complaint to the plumbers which gets mixed up with an invitation for a fancy weekend party. Thus it is that Eddie and Albert, accompanied by their female cab-driving pal Elsie (Marion Hutton), show up dressed to the nines at a posh country estate. While the boys get mixed up in further comic complications, Elsie carries on a romance with wealthy and handsome Peter (Kirby Grant). Things come to a head when a valuable painting is stolen, prompting Eddie and Albert to chase after the thieves by commandeering a fire engine! Released in most areas simply as In Society, this slapped-together comedy proved beyond all doubt that Abbott and Costello's appeal had not slipped during their screen absence. Highlights include a variation on the burlesque chestnut "Floogel Street" (here renamed "The Susquehanna Hat Company"), a wild and crazy fox hunt, and the climactic fire-engine pursuit, which was lifted virtually in toto from W.C. Fields' Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Giant
With the profits of the Abbott & Costello films in decline, Universal decided to experiment with the comedians' standard formula. In both Little Giant and The Time of Their Lives, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play separate characters, rather than the usual smart guy/dumb guy comedy team. In Giant, Costello is cast as farm boy Benny Miller, a would-be salesman who goes to work for the Hercules Vacuum Cleaner company. Almost immediately running afoul of crooked general manager Morrison (Bud Abbott), bumbling Benny is about to be fired when he is convinced by a bunch of practical jokers that he has the power to read minds. His newfound self-confidence enables Benny to become Hercules' top salesman, which delights branch manager Tom Chandler (also Bud Abbott), Morrison's cousin and principal rival. About to receive a salesmanship award, Benny falls into a trap laid by Morrison and his wife (Jacqueline de Wit), who conspire to discredit Chandler by exposing Benny as a fraud. Thoroughly disillusioned, Benny returns home, only to discover that not only is he still Hercules' fair-haired boy, but that he's also replaced Morrison as general manager. Written by Richard Collins and Paul Jarrico, Little Giant is hardly typical Abbott and Costello fare, though the film contains several characteristic comedy setpieces, including an interpolation of Abbott & Costello's classic "Seven Goes Into Twenty-Eight Thirteen Times" routine. Perennial Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont shows up in one of the better slapstick scenes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Time of Their Lives
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap
The Abbott & Costello western spoof The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap is predicated on an actual Montana law of the 19th century, which dictated that if a man killed another in a gun duel, that man was responsible for the care and support of the victim's family. The film gets under way with an introductory title: "MONTANA: Where Men Are Men? With Two Exceptions." Those exceptions are travelling salesmen Duke (Bud Abbott) and Chester (Lou Costello), freshly arrived in the wide-open western town of Wagon Gap. No sooner has Chester reached Main Street than he is falsely arrested for the murder of Hawkins, the town layabout. He and Duke are spared the hangman's noose when the genially corrupt Judge Benbow (George Cleveland) reminds the jury that Chester is now responsible for Hawkins' debts and family. In short order, Chester is moved bag and baggage into the ramshackle home of the rowdy Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main) and her brood of seven noisy children. Forced to do all the chores around the Widow's home, poor Chester must also put in overtime at Jake Frame's (Gordon Jones) saloon to pay off Hawkins' debts. While the crafty Duke tries to figure out various methods of extricating Chester from his dilemma, the Widow uses all of her wiles to get Chester to propose marriage to her. The plot goes off on a new tangent when it is discovered that none of the town desperadoes are willing to shoot down Chester, lest they inherit the Widow and her brats. Emboldened by his "untouchable" status, Chester swaggers around town striking fear in the hearts of the local menfolk, bosses Duke around for a change, and is even appointed sheriff! Alas, his invulnerability comes to an abrupt end when it turns out that the Hawkins spread is the most valuable property in town, thereby making Widow Hawkins the territory's most eligible bachelorette. The story comes to an uproarious conclusion when Chester and Jake Frame confront each other in a "high noon" gun duel. Incredibly, screenwriters D.D. Beauchamp and William Bowers originally intended The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap as a vehicle for James Stewart! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Buck Privates Come Home
After serving with a notable lack of distinction in WW2, Corporal Slicker Smith (Bud Abbott) and Private Herbie Brown (Lou Costello) return to the US. Unbeknownst to their sourpussed sergeant Collins (Nat Pendleton), Slicker and Herbie have smuggled cute little war orphan Evie (Beverly Simmons) past the immigration authorities. In their efforts to find a decent home for Evie, our heroes return to the prewar "jobs" as sidewalk salesmen, then make a disastrous attempt to collect their GI bonus money. They also struggle to save Evie from deportation, hiding her from the prying eyes of the ubiquitous Collins, who has likewise returned to his civilian job as a police officer. The climax finds Herbie participating in a big-money midget-car race, feverishly dodging pedestrians and motorists as he tries to escape the authorities. The film also includes a romantic subplot involving Tom Brown and Joan Fulton (later known as Joan Shawlee). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Naughty Nineties
Abbott and Costello's The Naughty Nineties offers a million laughs and a nickel's worth of plot. Most of the film takes place aboard a 19th century showboat, owned by kindly Captain Sam (Henry Travers). Bud Abbott plays the showboat's leading man Dexter Broadhurst, while Lou Costello is handyman Sebastian Dinwiddie. A group of slick gamblers (Alan Curtis, Rita Johnson and Joe Sawyer) cheat Captain Sam out of his boat, turning the place into a floating gambling palace, but Dexter and Sebastian foil the villains and save the day. The film is a virtual encyclopedia of wheezy but still hilarious comedy routines, many of them devised by veteran Laurel & Hardy and Three Stooges gagman Felix Adler. The film's highlight is a full-length performance of Abbott and Costello's verbal classic "Who's on First?"-and if one listens very closely, one can hear the cameramen and crew members laughing! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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