Moving on to the second half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1945 comedy The Time Of Their Lives.
In 1780, American tinker Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) comes to the home of Tom Danbury (Jess Barker), where he hopes to find his sweetheart, indentured servant Nora O’Leary (Anne Gillis). Horatio does not have enough money to set her free, but he does have a letter from George Washington that should be good enough for Nora’s masters. However, Tom is making plans to help Benedict Arnold turn West Point over to the British, and his fiancee Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds) overhears. She gets Horatio to help her get word to Washington’s men, but on the way, they are mistaken for traitors and shot. Now cursed to wander the Danbury estate until the end of time (or their innocence is proven), they are stuck, as the house is burned and furniture looted. Fast forward to the then-modern times in 1946, and the house has been restored, with most of the original furniture. The house itself is now being occupied by Sheldon “Shelly” Gage (John Shelton), June Prescott (Lynne Baggett), Mildred “Milly” Dean (Binnie Barnes) and psychiatrist Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott). Since Ralph looks exactly like his ancestor Cuthbert Greenway (also played by Bud Abbott), Horatio takes to playing pranks on him. The housekeeper, Emily (Gale Sondergaard), is aware of their existence, and, once the others are aware, they all decide to figure out what they can do to help the two ghosts. Through a seance, they learn about Horatio’s letter from George Washington, and they do what they can to help find it.
After the success of their previous film, Little Giant (and the continuation of the feud in which they still were not on speaking terms), Abbott and Costello again worked separately for the movie The Time Of Their Lives. This movie takes it even further, as they really don’t interact with each other (especially since Lou is playing a ghost that none of the live characters can actually see for most of the movie), and they do none of their classic routines for this movie. This movie ended up being one of the most expensive Abbott and Costello films to date as a result of the special effects, made somewhat worse by Lou’s habits. Normally, Lou had a habit of taking home mementos from the movies that he made, and, rather problematically, sometimes before production on a set was finished. It was made worse here, since the special effects required them to shoot some of the scenes over a two day period, since at least two takes were required for every shot, one with the actors and one without. At one point, Lou took home some of the props before a scene was finished, and so everything that had been filmed for that scene had to be redone!
I’ve seen it said that this is considered to be one of their better movies, and, in my opinion, it certainly is! While they aren’t interacting as much, Bud and Lou are still a lot of fun here (and certainly better than they were in Little Giant). It’s actually fun to see them with a slight role reversal, with Lou getting to pick on Bud for once! Not to mention Bud being the one scared, as opposed to Lou (although he gets scared a little, too)! I admit, it’s not a movie that you will want to think too hard about, as there are different plot points that don’t make sense. I mean, seriously? It took these two ghosts 165 years to figure out that nobody could see them? And even when they did figure it out, they still feel the need to make themselves “invisible?” Seems more like an excuse for the filmmakers to show off what they could do for special effects. Still, though, the movie just works well. It doesn’t really have the side romances I’m prone to complaining about with these movies, and actress Marjorie Reynolds, whom Lou is paired with for most of the movie, is able to hold up her end of the comedy pretty well, moreso than other cast members in some of the other Abbott and Costello movies. Again, I enjoy this one a lot, as I consider it one of their best movies, and it is one that I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!
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, twenty-two minutes in length.
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Little Giant (1946) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
Little Giant (1946) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
Holiday Inn (1942) – Marjorie Reynolds
Coming Up Shorts! with… Who Killed Who? (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, 46 seconds)
We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death. More fun gags from Tex Avery, along with Richard Haydn’s familiar voice as the Victim. I certainly enjoyed the touch of the organ music, giving it the feel of a radio program from that time. Yet another cartoon that was a lot of fun, continuing to make the set that it’s included on quite worthwhile!
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!