I love history and I love that I have a job where I get to work with history every day! So in continuing with my previous post which you can read here. I am going to share another Old Hollywood post.
Indianapolis was a hub for War Bond rallies, special performances, national ceremonies and more. Many famous faces walked around Monument Circle, shook peoples hands, and posed for pictures all in the name of the war effort. It strange to see famous faces standing somewhere I could go stand right now if I wasn’t typing this blog. One of the most entertaining images I have come across features the famous duo, Abbott and Costello. The pair came to Indianapolis for a comedy performance and to raise money for war bonds. The pair was a comedy act best known for their running gig, “Who’s on First?”. They touched all forms of entertainment during their long careers including vaudeville, radio, television, and film. They both got their start as burlesque comedians, and no they didn’t shake their groove things like the ladies. They were in-between acts of the ladies shaking their groove things. I have always been really interested in burlesque dancing, but I myself cannot dance and therefore will never have a burlesque career. The pair actually met during a burlesque performance when Costello’s regular partner became ill and Abbott took his place. They became fast friends and their careers sky-rocketed from there.
During their first radio performance, the listeners had a hard time telling them apart by voice to Costello adopted his famous high-pitched voice to help them out. They went on to movies starting with One Night in the Tropics. They had supporting roles in the film but stole the show with their funny banter and routines. They would go on to star in their own films as well as others, totaling 36 films and making them the highest paid duo in Hollywood. They also made regular television and radio appearances throughout their careers. They landed their own television show, The Abbott and Costello Show, and it ran from 1952-1954 on NBC.
It was in the 1950’s that Abbott and Costello’s popularity began to wane. The two had their demons, including drinking, gambling and on-going health problems. Though the pair presented themselves as best friends, they did suffer a rift in 1945 over a petty argument involving a housekeeper who Abbott had hired after she was fired by Costello. The two didn’t make up until Abbott volunteered for Costello’s charity for underprivileged children. There was tension between the two and their acts just weren’t as popular anymore, thanks in large part to the amount of films the pair had done using the same comedy routines. The pair was dropped by Universal in 1955 after having to back out of a film due Abbott’s ongoing health concerns. They were then investigated by the IRS which forced them to sell off a good chunk of their personal belongings and their own homes. By 1957, the pair officially split.
Costello went on to have a somewhat successful solo career but died in 1959 due to a heart attack. Before his death he appeared multiple times The Steve Allen Show, he appeared in episodes in GE Theatre and Wagon Train, and he completed a film titled The Thirty Foot Bride of Candle Rock.
Abbott attempted a comedic duo comeback with Candy Candido in the sixties but quit despite good reviews. His reasoning was that no one could ever live up to Costello. He appeared in one episode of GE Theatre and voiced himself in the cartoon entitled Abbott and Costello. He died in 1974 of cancer.
Despite how things ended for the duo and their personal troubles there is no comedic duo that can ever live up to Abbott and Costello!
*All images are from the Larry Foster Collection at the Indiana Historical Society.