biographies

Born William Abbott in New Jersey on October 2, 1895 (some sources cite 1897), Bud Abbott was born into show business, as his parents worked for the Barnum & Bailey Circus. As a juvenile he dropped out of school and worked in carnivals. As he matured into a young man, Abbott worked the vaudeville circuit as a 'straight man' for various comics; after his marriage to wife Betty in 1918, Abbott also worked as a theatre manager to make ends meet. He was in his mid 30s by the time he first teamed with Lou Costello, whose straight man had taken ill. Abbott, working as a box office manager at the time, filled in for the ailing performer. The two became friends, but it would take about five more years for Abbott and Costello to officially become a team, which they finally did in 1936.

Lou Costello was born Louis Francis Cristillo on March 6, 1906, in New Jersey. Standing only 5'3" but very athletic, Costello went to Hollywood as a young man in the 1920s to break into films. However, he could only secure work as a stuntman and in bit parts. Feeling defeated, he went back east in the late 1920s and entered burlesque. After his initial meeting with Bud Abbott, the duo developed an instant rapport. They honed their act in vaudeville and burlesque houses; since the act was becoming successful so quickly, they soon found themselves ascending to greater heights. Comedian Henny Youngman, who was a great fan of theirs, pulled some strings and got them a one-time booking on a 1938 episode of the Kate Smith Radio Hour, one of the most popular radio programs at the time. The team proved to be such a hit with audiences that they returned to the show numerous times, eventually doing their famous "Who's On First?" routine. Several studio executives took notice of Abbott and Costello's growing popularity, but Universal Studios, known at the time for its horror films, made the best offer, so the team signed a contact with the studio in 1939.

Bud Abbott and Lou CostelloBud Abbott and Lou Costello

LEFT: Abbott and Costello doing an Armed Forces radio show in the 1940s. RIGHT: Preparing for a radio show in the 1940s

The team's first film for Universal was the B musical One Night in the Tropics (1940; with Robert Cummings). Abbott and Costello's second film, Buck Privates (1941; with Jane Frazee and Nat Pendleton), was their first headliner and became a smash hit. Their Universal contract proved to be so lucrative for the team that the studio had to lower its usual decent production values to bring the films in on budget. They were buoyed by their radio show, which aired on ABC from 1941 through 1946, switching to NBC from 1946 though 1949. Into the 1940s, they became wildly popular with war-weary audiences seeking escapist entertainment. In support of the war effort, Abbott and Costello criss-crossed the country selling war bonds and, later, promoted various charities. At the height of their success, however, Lou Costello was hit with a number of personal tragedies. He became seriously ill with rheumatic fever in early 1943 and had to cease making films and radio appearances for several months. After he recovered, on the day that the team's radio show began its 1943 season, his one-year-old son tragically drowned in his pool. He went on with the radio show that evening, putting off his anguish until after the show aired.

the films of abbott and costello

Hold That Ghost (1941)

Bud Abbott and Lou CostelloJoan Davis and Lou Costello

From Universal's Hold That Ghost. LEFT: With Richard Carlson, Evelyn Ankers, and Joan Davis. RIGHT: Costello with comedy veteran Joan Davis

The Noose Hangs High (1948)

Bud Abbott and Lou CostelloBud Abbott, Lou Costello, and Mike Mazurki

From The Noose Hangs High with Mike Mazurki

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, and Glenn Strange

From Universal's comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with Bela Lugosi and Glenn Strange

Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)

Lou Costello and Boris Karloff

From Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff with Boris Karloff, one of two comedies the horror great made with Abbott and Costello

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Lou CostelloLou CostelloLou Costello and Bud AbbottAdele Jergens, Lou Costello, and Bud Abbott

Scenes from Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. LEFT: Lou Costello as a detective. CENTER A: Lou goes undercover as a prizefighter. CENTER B: Bud and Lou try to catch a killer. RIGHT: Abbott and Costello with Adele Jergens

Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953)

Abbott and CostelloBud Abbott, Lou Costello, and Mari BlanchardLou Costello and Mari BlanchardBud Abbott, Lou Costello, and Mari BlanchardBud Abbott, Lou Costello, and the Miss Universe contestants

From Abbott and Costello Go To Mars. LEFT: Bud and Lou in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. CENTER A, B, and C: With Mari Blanchard as the Queen of Venus. RIGHT: Bud and Lou with the beautiful Venusians, who were all actually Miss Universe Pageant contestants. Look for Anita Ekberg in this photo

Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)

Bud Abbott and Lou CostelloBud Abbott and Lou CostelloBud Abbott and Lou Costello

Scenes from Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

Lou Costello

With Eddie Parker as the Mummy in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, the last of Abbott and Costello's Universal monster films

The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)

Lou Costello, Gale Gordon, and Charles Lane

From Lou Costello's final film, the Columbia comedy The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock with Gale Gordon and Charles Lane. This film was released about six months after Costello passed away

later years

With the growing popularity of television, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello took a rotating hosting gig on the NBC variety series The Colgate Comedy Hour, beginning in early 1951. The next year, on rival network CBS, the team starred in its own series, The Abbott and Costello Show, which ran for two seasons. After their Universal contract lapsed following the release of Dance with Me, Henry (1956; with Gigi Perreau), the handwriting was on the wall. Lou Costello wanted to go solo, and Bud Abbott, now in his 60's, longed to retire. In 1957, the team amicably split. Lou Costello did a number of nightclub appearances and headlined the film The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959; with Gale Gordon and Dorothy Provine). Sadly, before the film was released, he passed away suddenly from a heart ailment on March 3, 1959, at the age of 52. His wife Anne died just months later. The couple was survived by three daughters. An interesting side note is that, in the mid 1940s Costello helped discover Dean Martin. Years later, Costello's daughter Carole married Martin's son Craig.

Bud Abbott wasn't allowed to enjoy retirement for long, as the I.R.S. hit him with a huge back tax bill of $750,000. With his fortune gone and needing to work, he formed a new comedy team with Johnny "Candy" Candido in the early 1960s, but Abbott's heart wasn't in it and, in addition, he was not in good health. He took a few television roles and later did voice work on Hanna-Barbera's 1966 animated series The Abbott and Costello Show. He was forced to retire afterward due to failing health. Bud Abbott passed away on April 24, 1974, at the age of 78 and was survived by his wife and daughter and son.

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filmography

FILM
The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959) (Lou Costello only) with Gale Gordon and Dorothy Provine
Dance with Me Henry (1956) with Gigi Perreau and Mary Wickes
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) with Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara, and Richard Deacon
Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955) with Fred Clark and Lynn Bari
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) with Boris Karloff and Craig Stevens
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) with Mari Blanchard and Martha Hyer
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) with Charles Laughton and Hillary Brooke
Lost in Alaska (1952) with Mitzi Green, Tom Ewell, and Bruce Cabot
Jack and the Beanstalk (1952) with Buddy Baer
Comin' Round the Mountain (1951) with Glenn Strange and Margaret Hamilton
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) with Adele Jergens and William Frawley
Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950) with Walter Slezak, Tor Johnson, and Patricia Medina
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) with Boris Karloff
Africa Screams (1949) with Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Hillary Brooke, and Buddy Baer
Mexican Hayride (1948) with Virginia Grey
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) with Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Lenore Aubert, Glenn Strange, and Vincent Price
The Noose Hangs High (1948) with Mike Mazurki, Leon Errol, and Cathy Downs
Buck Privates Come Home (1947) with Nat Pendleton
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947) with Marjorie Main
The Time of Their Lives (1946) with Gale Sondergaard and Kirk Alyn
Little Giant (1946) with Brenda Joyce, Elena Verdugo, and Margaret Dumont
Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945) with Mike Mazurki
The Naughty Nineties (1945) with Alan Curtis
Here Come the Co-eds (1945) with Lon Chaney Jr. and Peggy Ryan
In Society (1944) with Arthur Treacher and Marion Hutton
Lost in a Harem (1944) with Marilyn Maxwell
Hit the Ice (1943) with Elyse Knox
It Ain't Hay (1943) with Shemp Howard, Eugene Pallette, and Cecil Kellaway
Rio Rita (1942) with Kathryn Grayson, Tom Conway, and Barry Nelson
Who Done It? (1942) with Louise Allbritton, Mary Wickes, and William Bendix
Pardon My Sarong (1942) with Virginia Bruce, Lionel Atwill, William Demarest, and Marie McDonald
Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942) with Johnny Mack Brown, Dick Foran, and Anne Gwynne
Keep 'Em Flying (1941) with Martha Raye and Dick Foran
Hold That Ghost (1941) with Joan Davis, Richard Carlson, Shemp Howard, Evelyn Ankers, and the Andrews Sisters
In the Navy (1941) with Dick Powell, Dick Foran, Shemp Howard, and the Andrews Sisters
Buck Privates (1941) with Jane Frazee, Nat Pendleton, Shemp Howard, and the Andrews Sisters
One Night in the Tropics (1940) with Nancy Kelly, Robert Cummings, and William Frawley

TELEVISION SERIES
The Abbott and Costello Show, 1966-1967 animated series, 156 episodes. Bud Abbott lent his vocal talents to this Hanna-Barbera cartoon
The Abbott and Costello Show, 1952-1953 TV series, 52 episodes
The Colgate Comedy Hour, 1950-1955 TV series. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello served as rotating hosts from 1951 to 1954

abbott and costello links

Abbott and Costello Meet the Internet
This is the official web site for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

Abbott and Costello Collectibles
Check out this web site for all kinds of merchandise featuring Abbott and Costello, along with other comedians. Look for hats, ties, magnets, mousepads, CD's, and more!

abbott and costello film now showing

Watch Abbott and Costello's hilarious 1949 film Africa Screams (improved 720p version)
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This page premiered October 29, 2002.
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