For the first part of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1946 film Little Giant.
From his mother’s farm in Cucamonga, California, Benny Miller (Lou Costello) takes a correspondence course to become a salesman. While his attempts to sell backfire on him, he “graduates” the course and decides to go to L.A. to become a salesman. He goes to see his uncle Clarence Goodring (George Cleveland), who works at the Hercules Vacuum Cleaner Company, but, since there is a rule in place that they cannot hire the relatives of others who work there, Clarence tries to help get Benny hired without revealing their relationship. The manager, E. L. Morrison (Bud Abbott), mistakes Benny for a model and asks him to undress. Once the mistake is realized, Morrison hires him to make up for it. However, Benny causes trouble with one potential customer, which results in a lawsuit and Benny being fired. However, Clarence sends Benny to a branch in Stockton, which is being managed by Morrison’s cousin, Tom Chandler (also Bud Abbott). Benny doesn’t do any better there, either, and is almost fired until the other salesmen play a prank on him and make him believe he is psychic. However, the joke’s on them, as his belief in his “ability” to read minds results in him breaking a sales record. He is sent back to the main office, where his uncle reveals that Morrison has been embezzling from the company. Morrison is less than thrilled with Benny’s return (not to mention the fact that Benny was hinting around at what he had been doing in front of his boss). So Morrison tries to find a way to discredit Benny before he is revealed.
Much ado has been made of this film being a departure from what the earlier Abbott and Costello films had been like. After sixteen films where the comedy was driven mostly by gags and making use of the comedy routines they had been doing together since they first teamed up, they decided to have the comedy come from the story. In this movie, they didn’t do much as a team! Admittedly, these changes were at least partially the result of the two starting to feud and not being willing to speak to each other off camera. The movie focused in on Lou’s character, which allowed Bud to play multiple characters.
My own feelings on this movie are mixed. I’m now coming off my second time watching this movie. After the first time I saw it, I was really disappointed by it. Now, my opinion has improved a bit after the second viewing. I enjoyed the moment with Lou and Sydney Fields, as Fields argues with everything Lou tries to say. From some of the radio shows, it’s been moments like that that I remember quite fondly and get quite a few laughs out of, so it was refreshing to enjoy a moment like that onscreen. And I do enjoy the fact that this movie does away with the side romances that have plagued a lot of the earlier films, with Lou’s romance being the only one for the movie. All that being said, the movie does seem to get dragged down by the off-screen feud between the two. I just could feel that things were off the first time I saw it, and that feeling is still there. The boys do have one comedy routine together, their “7×13=28” routine, although it doesn’t feel as good as when they’ve done it elsewhere, like in In The Navy. I do consider this to be one of the weaker Abbott and Costello films, but it still has enough enjoyment there for it to be a movie that I would recommend seeing at least once!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, thirty-one minutes in length.
My Rating: 6/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Coming Up Shorts! with… Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!
(Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer. A lot of fun to be had here, with it starting out like every other version of Red Riding Hood, before the characters demand a different interpretation. The screwy antics made this one a lot more fun that I would have thought, and it was worth seeing to get a few good laughs!
And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!