For the second half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1943 comedy It Ain’t Hay.
Grover Mockridge (Bud Abbott) and his taxi driver buddy Wilbur Hoolihan (Lou Costello) find themselves surrounded by trouble! Their friend, private Joe Collins (Leighton Noble), is in town to try to find talent for an army camp show after bragging that he knew a lot of big Broadway stars. And Finnegan, the horse owned by their carriage driver friend King O’Hara (Cecil Kellaway) and his daughter Peggy “Princess” O’Hara (Patsy O’Connor), has come down sick after eating some of Wilbur’s peppermint candy. Wilbur tries to help Finnegan, and is temporarily successful. However, the next day, he learns that Finnegan died, and so he promises to find a way to get his friends a new horse. He tries gambling and wins, but is quickly conned out of the money. Wilbur and Grover try taking Boimel, the brother of famous racing horse Tea Biscuit, but find out too late they have accidentally taken Tea Biscuit. King has already gone to Saratoga with a customer, so everyone goes after him to get the horse back. Once there, they have to find a way to return the horse, all the while avoiding everybody else seeking the reward for the horse’s return.
The movie was based on the Damon Runyan story Princess O’Hara. Universal had previously done a movie in 1935 under that name. Princess O’Hara and Hold Your Horses were the titles being considered for this film version as well, but Bud and Lou were coming off a VERY successful tour of the U.S. in which they had sold nearly $85 million worth of war bonds, and the title was changed in reference to that. They did some location shooting, for the likes of background footage and exteriors, including using the estate of Carl Laemmle, Jr. (the son of the founder of Universal) for the hotel exterior, Griffith Park in Los Angeles and some of the racing sequence in Pomona.
For me, I will admit I watched this movie with a touch of sadness. I had seen most of the Abbott and Costello movies over the years, particularly through the multiple volumes of the Universal-owned films on DVD, but at that time, It Ain’t Hay had been held back due to some rights issues, so it remained as the last Abbott and Costello movie that I hadn’t seen. That being said, I ended up enjoying it very much! Now, I will readily admit that this movie requires A LOT of suspension of disbelief because of its many “coincidences” that move the story along. I mean, seriously? The boys go for the horse Boimel, but the horse in Boimel’s stall is Tea Biscuit instead? Tea Biscuit’s owner just happens to enter his horse in the race at Saratoga for sentimental reasons and then Lou’s Wilbur somehow ends up looking like a jockey and competes in the race? Efficiency expert Gregory Warner (played by Eugene Pallette) just happens to get jobs wherever the boys go, first at a cafeteria they eat at, then for Tea Biscuit’s owner the night they take the horse, and then at the hotel in Saratoga? Like I said, things like those do require a lot of suspension of disbelief, but, at the same time, I can’t deny they help provide the laughter, just the same. Abbott and Costello get to do a few fun routines here, including “Mudder/Fodder” and “Betting Parlor.” Former and future Three Stooges member Shemp Howard also has a part, in which he immediately breaks the fourth wall, admitting that he is a “Damon Runyan character.” While a lot of what goes on here is ridiculous, it’s still a fun movie, and it feels like one of their better ones, so I would certainly recommend this movie for a good time!
This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection from Shout Factory.
Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
The Lady Eve (1941) – Eugene Pallette