TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Hold That Ghost (1941)

Continuing on with today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature is their 1941 comedy Hold That Ghost!

At a swanky night club, gangster Moose Matson (William Davidson) is told by his lawyer Bannister (Russell Hicks) that small-time hood Charlie Smith (Marc Lawrence) knows about a recent hold-up Moose was involved in, and threatens to go to the district attorney if Moose doesn’t give him half the money. The next day, Moose stops at a gas station where Chuck Murray (Bud Abbott) and Ferdinand “Ferdie” Jones (Lou Costello) work as attendants. When the police find him, Moose forces Chuck and Ferdie to drive him away, but the cops shoot him and he dies. Chuck and Ferdie are later told by Bannister that Moose’s will stated that anybody with him when he died would inherit Moose’s estate, and he introduces them to Charlie as his associate, who will take them to their inheritance. They end up taking a ride with a group of other passengers, including Doctor Jackson (Richard Carlson), Camille Brewster (Joan Davis) and Norma Lind (Evelyn Ankers), out to an old tavern, which is their inheritance. Upon arriving, their driver takes off with all their luggage, abandoning everyone at the tavern. Charlie disappears not long after they arrive, while they try to scrape together some food. They all try to sleep for the night, but too many ghostly run-ins occur, as they try to figure out what is going on.

After finishing Buck Privates, Abbott and Costello went into production on Hold That Ghost (although the original planned title was “Oh Charlie”), which was inspired by their comedy routine “Moving Candle.” About the time they finished production, Buck Privates was enjoying great success in theatres, and the early test audiences for “Oh Charlie” wondered where the Andrews Sisters were. The film was shelved while they produced In The Navy as another service comedy, with plans to rework “Oh Charlie” later. When they resumed production, they decided to add some more scenes, including the nightclub opening featuring Ted Lewis and the Andrews Sisters, the new ending (also featuring Ted Lewis and The Andrews Sisters), and a few changes to other scenes from the movie. However, particularly for the end scene, actress Joan Davis had already moved on to doing another movie for 20th Century Fox and was unavailable. Of course, the movie was a success, and opened up new doors for Abbott and Costello beyond the service comedies they had been doing, since audiences liked seeing Lou scared.

Personally, I disagree with the original test audiences about the movie. I wish I could see it as “Oh Charlie,” as the scenes with the Andrews Sisters and Ted Lewis just seem way out of place here (especially Ted Lewis doing “Me And My Shadow,” which is definitely not politically correct with a black performer “shadowing” him, possibly in blackface). The new stuff with the main cast still works, though, but the movie is best at the “haunted” tavern! With some of their comedy routines (besides the aforementioned “Moving Candle”) including “Changing Room” as Lou keeps ending up in rooms that change as the place was a former casino, with all the slot machines and tables coming in and out of hiding, plus “Figure Of Speech,” as well as “Comic Ballet,” a fun little comedy dance featuring Lou and Joan Davis, there is much fun to be had here! And, of course, Lou is always hilarious when frightened! The horror aspects certainly work well enough, as you can still feel the tension and terror at those moments! Certainly a wonderful movie that I would recommend highly (and I also recommend skipping through the musical stuff at the start and finish of the movie, since it doesn’t advance the plot at all)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

In The Navy (1941)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Keep ‘Em Flying (1941)

In The Navy (1941) – The Andrews Sisters – Make Mine Music (1946)

In The Navy (1941)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Keep ‘Em Flying (1941)

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