Abbott and Costello meet the Keystone Kops (1955) starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Fred Clark, Lynn Bari
Abbott and Costello meet the Keystone Kops … a little bit. In actuality, it has Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, set in the early days of the film industry, and Lou Costello impersonates one, and there is a long, funny chase scene at the end with, indeed, the Keystone Kops’ “assistance” — but we should start at the beginning of the movie, where Willie Piper (Lou Costello) is weeping profusely at a movie theater, watching the chase over the ice floes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin — and promptly gets thrown out for bothering the other patrons. After going back in (and getting thrown back out) to grab his aunt’s money ($5,000) that he needs to deposit in the bank, his friend Harry Pierce (Bud Abbott) convinces him instead to use the money to purchase a film studio — after a very funny bit where Bud gets beaten up by a passerby for threatening to beat his “son” — when Bud tries to reverse roles, nothing happens, and then Bud gets beaten up again.
Soon, they’re meeting with Joe Gorman (Fred Clark, remembered for his role on the Beverly Hillbillies) and his partner Leota Van Cleef (Lynn Bari, the “girl with the million dollar figure”) who promptly bilk them out of their money and leave town — heading for California, where Gorman plans to assume the identity of Sergei Toumanoff, foreign director. When Abbott and Costello arrive at “their” studio, they swiftly realize that they’ve been swindled, and begin chasing after Gorman.
Walking to California along train tracks, Abbott and Costello have one close call with a train, only to have a second one, as Lou gets his foot stuck in the track with another train coming, leaving Bud to think that Lou’s been hit by a train, and begins carrying the “injured” Lou — who milks this for all that it’s worth. After a run-in with some hobos (and a very funny routine with a groundhog that has to be seen to be appreciated), Bud and Lou have their clothes stolen while they sleep — and after wagering a trip on board a train, the duo make their way to Hollywood.
At the same time, “Toumanoff” has been hired by movie producer Rudolph Snavely (played by Frank Wilcox, also known for his recurring role on Beverly Hillbillies) and begins directing silent motion pictures. Abbott and Costello finally make it to Hollywood, and think they see a horse-drawn wagon driven by an old man that they met along the way — but it’s actually a pair of actors filming a Western scene where they’re about to be attacked by Indians. Abbott and Costello turn this into a madcap chase, leading them to be hired as new stuntmen working at Mr. Snavely’s film studio, where they’ll be working for Toumanoff!
At the studio, Mr. Snavely gives the boys his promise to do all that he can to find Gorman, and see that their money is returned to them. Soon, Lou will be acting as a double for Lynn Bari in an airplane scene, where Gorman/Toumanoff’s assistant has rigged the plane to fall apart, as well as “accidentally” put live ammunition in the other airplane’s guns — a very funny scene, well worth watching, as Bud and Lou manage to survive, finally jumping from the plane in the only parachute, with Lou dangling from Bud’s legs, finally ripping his pants off and falling safely into the water below — and then rides a submarine to shore.
The next day, watching the footage from the airplane, Mr. Snavely recognizes Bud and Lou’s comedic potential, and decides to make them the studio’s newest comedy team. He also lets “Toumanoff” know that he realizes that he’s actually con man Joe Gorman, and has arranged for Gorman’s victims to be repaid from “Toumanoff’s” salary, and wants “Toumanoff” to be Pierce & Piper’s director. However, Abbott and Costello realize that “Toumanoff” is actually Joe Gorman — but don’t know about Snavely’s agreement with him.
In a very funny routine, Bud dresses as a Keystone Kop while Bud dresses as a burglar to break into “Toumanoff’s” home and search for evidence that he really is Gorman. However, a real thief has already broken in, and there’s a wonderful sequence of mistaken identities as a real police office is mistaken for Lou while the burglar is mistaken for Bud, with escalating speed and building to a comedy crescendo.
Soon enough, unfortunately, “Toumanoff’s” right hand man blackmails him into stealing $75,000 from Snavely’s safe, pushing him back into a life of crime — and safecracking. Bud and Lou walk in on them, dressed in Keystone Kops outfits, and chase after Gorman, enlisting the help of the Keystone Kops, who they have mistaken for real police officers.
The film ends with a truly madcap chase scene with Abbott and Costello, the Keystone Kops, and Snavely chasing after them. I’ve never been a fan of the Keystone Kops, but the chase scene here is truly laugh out loud funny, with many great comedy moments that need to be seen to be appreciated. At the end, the villains are apprehended, and Mr. Snavely’s money is rescued — until the wind from an airplane propeller blows it all over.
I can truly say that I truly enjoyed watching Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops, and I rate it a very solid 4 stars out of 5.
Trivia for Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops
- After the film was completed, Universal wanted to rename it “Abbott and Costello in the Stunt Men“, because they did not consider the “Keystone Kops” to be relevant anymore. However, in October, 1954, the studio relented and agreed to use the “Keystone Kops” name
- Three members of the original Keystone Kops of silent films worked on the picture: Hank Mann, Harold Goodwin and Heinie Conklin. This is the 13th Keystone Kops film.
- Mack Sennet has a brief cameo appearance as himself, throwing a pie at Lou Costello — who ducks, so that Bud Abbott gets it!
- When Lou Costello arrives at Thomas A. Edison’s Black Maria studio in West Orange, NJ, and finds he has been duped into buying it by Fred Clark, his new studio sign gets thrown into a pile representing the others who were defrauded into thinking they were buying a working movie studio. Among the discarded signs is “Grant Productions“, an in-joke on the name of long-time A&C collaborator and writer John Grant, who received credit on 31 of their films as well as their TV work.
- When Willie (Lou Costello) goes to the theatre, the pretty lady in the box office is actually Costello’s real-life daughter Carole Costello. She was made up to look much older than her real age.
- The chase at the end was sold by Castle Films in 8 and 16mm film under the title “Have Badge, Will Chase.”
- The airplane stunt-flying sequence was released by Castle Films in 8mm as “Hollywood and Bust“.
- In reality, before becoming a successful comedian, Bud Abbott first went out to Hollywood to become a stuntman; unlike in the movie, he returned home to Patterson, New Jersey having failed as a stuntman.