Tis Pity He's a Writer

Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor

Who’s on First? I Don’t Know. Third Base!

Although I was obsessed with I Love Lucy as a ten-year-old (Last Night’s Movie: I Lured Lucy), I was growing up, and my rapidly developing sophistication demanded something that would rise above the common tastes of the Monday night masses.  I needed comedy idols that were a little more cultivated, a little more urbane, a little more je ne sais quoi.

Enter Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Costello was born on March 6, 106 years ago. He died in March 1959.  (Abbott was born 1897, died 1974)  They were exactly what I needed, giants of comedy, and like myself just oozing refinement — subtle  pratfalls, trenchant repartee (Heeeey Abbbottt!).

Although they made 36 movies and starred in both burlesque and radio, my first introduction was through television where they were rotating hosts of Sunday night’s Colgate Comedy Hour.  There each third week or so, they would perform the routines they had done time and time again – bits they had done in the movies, on radio and on stage.

Their movie career began in 1940 but really took off the following year with Buck Privates.  During the forties they churned out movies at the rate of three or four a year and were among the most popular and highest-paid entertainers in the world.

Although I eventually saw all of their movies either in theaters, on televsion or video, the first movie I remember was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein.  I saw the movie at a nearby church that showed weekly movies for kids in a recreation room turned theater.

In an early scene Lon Chaney Jr. as the long suffering Larry Talbot is about to do his full moon thing. Talbot:You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.”  Costello: “You and twenty million other guys.”  Talbot:“Lock me in my room, and no matter what you hear or what you might think, don’t let me out!”   Costello forgets something, goes back, unlocks the door, and thirty kids run screaming out of the theater.  False alarm; Costello doesn’t enter the room.  The kids all return to their seats.  Costello goes once again to open the door, and the kids go screaming out once again.  Another false alarm.

And we haven’t even laid eyes on Frankenstein or Dracula yet.What we need is young blood… and brains…”

After meeting Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man, Abbott and Costello went on to meet a host of infamous characters: the Invisible Man, Captain Kidd, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Mummy, the Killer (Boris Karloff).  And traveled throughout the world (and beyond): in a Harem, in the Foreign Legion, Lost in Alaska, Mexican Hayride, Mars, and Africa Screams, featuring both Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck as themselves and that lion that jumped into the audience in Bwana Devil.  For the entire list, visit Abbott and Costello Meet the Internet

Then there’s Who’s on First? The routine that for which Abbott And Costello were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And Susquehanna Hat Factory!?  Slowly I turned. . .

2 comments on “Who’s on First? I Don’t Know. Third Base!

  1. Blithering Idiot
    March 18, 2012

    Some of my fondest memories as a kid were watching their movies on WPIX on Sunday mornings before the Mets came on. My husband and I often banter using the Susquehanna Hat Company line…slow-ly I turned…step by step…
    The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has the “Who’s on First” reel that plays round the clock. I’ve seen that bit over 100 times and it still amazes me for its brilliance.


    • Richard Daybell
      March 19, 2012

      Me too. And the sliding candle in Frankenstein. And 7 times 13 is 28. And the oyster stew.


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