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Meet Abbott and Costello

William "Bud" Abbott was born October 2, 1895 in Ashbury Park New Jersey. His parents were performers in the Barnum and Bailey circus. While Bud was still a baby, the family moved to Coney Island, where his father helped create the first burlesque circuit. Bud left school to work the concessions at the Coney Island amusement park. Bud would also lure customers into the House of Mirrors where they would get lost. Bud would show them the way out for ten cents. At this young age Bud was already acting like his screen persona of the fast talking con man. When Bud was still a teenager, his father got him a job as an assistant treasurer for a burlesque theater in Brooklyn. During the performances Bud would often watch the comedians from backstage. Bud wanted to become a comedian himself and he would study the timing and delivery of the comedians. For the next several years Bud managed theaters across the country and eventually he became a performer. Bud's knowledge of every comedy routine was of great help because he could team up with any comedian and know they routines by heart. The comedians all wanted Bud to be their straight man because they got bigger laughs when they performed with Bud. By the early 1930s Bud had become the number one straight man in the burlesque. In 1936 Bud while performing in New York, saw a young comedian named Lou Costello. Bud and Lou saw each other perform and they decided to team up.

Louis Francis Cristillo was born March 3, 1906, in Paterson, New Jersey. Lou's father was an Italian immigrant and his mother was Irish-American. Lou's main interests as a child basketball, baseball and the movies. One Halloween Lou won a prize for his costume and impression of Charlie Chaplin. Lou was an excellent basketball player and was a state champion foul shooter. Lou also was an amateur boxer and never lost a fight. However he didn't tell his father about his boxing career, but one night Lou's dad was in the audience and saw that his son was fighting. Lou's boxing career was quickly ended. In the late 20s Lou decided he would become a movie star and him and a buddy of his hitchhiked their way to Hollywood. They arrived pennyless and went without work for months on end. Lou would go to the studios each morning looking for odd jobs and work for him to do. He was hired as a stunt man at MGM and did stunt work on several films. Lou received a lot of injuries as a stunt man and he decided to head back home. In 1940 Lou would return to MGM at the request of Louis B. Mayer himself. Lou made his way to St. Joseph, Missouri where he applied for a job as a comic at a local vaudeville theater. Lou got the job and although he had never worked on stage he didn't have problems getting laughs. Lou stayed at the theater for a year and changed his name to Lou Costello. Louís brother, Pat had started a band and had changed his name to Costello, so Lou followed suit. Lou returned to Paterson, New Jersey so he could enter the New York comic scene. Lou worked local bars in Paterson until he was offered his first job in burlesque, at the Orpheum Theater in New York.Lou worked his way up to being a top banana as the featured comic. It was then that he met Bud Abbott and they decided to work together as a team.

The Early Years

During Abbott and Costello's first year as a team they toured with a show called "Life Begins at Minsky's" During the run of the show Bud and Lou developed such a rapport with each other that they were soon the top comedy team in burlesque. They also got a fellow performer named John Grant, who was friends with Lou, to be their writers. They worked together to clean up all the burlesque routines and remove all the offensive material. Bud and Lou were always proud that they did a clean show. In May of 1937 burlesques was shut down in New York City by Mayor La Guardia. The shows had gotten too risque and public pressure forced them to close them for good. Bud and Lou turned to vaudeville after burlesque was turned down. They performed for ten weeks at Atlantic City's Steel Pier, where they were a big hit. The boys had learned so much comedy material they would never do the same show twice. They also ad-libbed quite often so the audiences kept coming back. The boys continued to gain in popularity as they played the clubs in New York and Washington, D.C. At the time Kate Smith was a popular singer who had a radio show. Abbott and Costello were asked to fill in for the show's regular comedian who was making a screen test in Hollywood. Abbott and Costello performed the routine "Who's on First?" millions of listeners across the county. Bud and Lou were made regulars on the Kate Smith Show and they became very popular. The team made appearances on many other radio shows as well. In July of 1940 they were giving their own show for the summer.

The Hollywood Years

The success of Abbott and Costello on the radio got them a one-picture deal with Universal Studios. Bud and Lou went to Hollywood to make their first film, "One Night in The Tropics"(1940) where they had supporting roles as comic relief. "Tropics" was a major flop for the studio. The critics said that Abbott and Costello were the best thing about the film. Universal reluctantly agreed to give the boys another shot. This time however they would be the stars of the picture. The film "Buck Private"(1941), a military comedy about the peacetime draft, was filmed over twenty days on the studio back lot for less than two hundred thousand dollars. The film would earn four million at the box office and was Universal's biggest moneymaker ever at the time. Abbott and Costello became a national craze and by the end of 1941, they had made four more films, "In The Navy"(1941), "Hold That Ghost"(1941), "Keep'Em Flying"(1941) and "Ride'Em Cowboys" which was released in early 1942. Abbott and Costello sign a three picture deal with MGM and their first film there "Rio Rita"(1942) was released. "Lost In A Harem"(1944) and Abbott and Costello In Hollywood"(1945) were the other two films they made at the studios. The MGM films aren't as funny as the ones they made for Universal but they had better production values and had better actors in the supporting roles. The team returned to Universal where they made "Pardon My Sarong"(1942), "Who Done It?"(1942), "It Ain't Hay"(1943), and "Hit The Ice"(1943).


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