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Bud Abbott biography

William Alexander Abbot€“ aka. Bud Abbott (October 2, 1895 -€“ April 24, 1974)

Some people are said to have show business in their blood – in  Bud Abbott’€™s  case, it’s almost literally true.  Abbott’s  mother was a bareback rider for the Ringling Brothers Circus, and his father worked as  an advance man for the same circus. Bud Abbot was born and raised in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and was smitten with the performing bug at an early age. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and  began working in carnivals, and later began  working in theaters across the country, eventually becoming the manager of the Nation Theater in Detroit. While there, Abbott began  performing on stage as straight man  to vaudeville performers, which led to a chance encounter that changed his life.

In 1931, while working at the Brooklyn Theater, he was  asked to fill in for Lou Costello’€™s straight man, who had taken ill. The new act of Abbott and Costello was created that night, and throughout the 1930’s  the men worked together in burlesque shows, minstrel shows, vaudeville and movie houses, honing their timing and perfecting their skills. In 1938 they received national exposure for the first time, appearing on the  Kate Smith Hour radio show, which led to their being signed by Universal Pictures the next year. In 1940 Bud Abbott and Lou Costello filmed their  first motion picture, One Night in the Tropics.€ Originally, they had small roles in the film, but as they were filming their roles were enlarged time and again, as the film crew kept breaking up in laughter during the filming of Abbott and Costello’€™s scenes. In this movie, they introduced several of their signature routines, including an abbreviated version of Who’s on First?€ and €œA Dollar a Day (where Abbott has hired Costello for the sum of $1.00 per day for the last year, and now that it’s time to pay up, finds exception after excuse to pay him less and less, ending with $1.00 for the entire year –€“ classic, and truly funny). The next year, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello starred in  Buck Privates,€ which became a major hit, grossing over $10,000,000.00 –€” bear in mind, at this time a movie ticket cost $0.25. Financially, Buck Privates did better than Citizen Kane.€ Swiftly following that same year came In the Navy,€ €œKeep ‘€˜Em Flying and €œHold That Ghost.€ All of these were large successes, and  propelled Bud Abbott to stardom, with all of the financial rewards that included.

In that same year of 1941 Bud and Lou began their  weekly radio show, The Abbott and Costello Show on the ABC radio network, which ran until 1946. In 1942, their radio and film career continued, releasing the movies €œWho Done It?,€ €œPardon My Sarong,€ €œRio Rita€ and €œRide ‘€˜em Cowboy€ –€” all of which were box office hits. The next year, in addition to filming €œIt Ain’t Hay,€ Bud Abbott and Lou Costello used their immense popularity to  raise money for the war effort. They began a cross-country tour, at their own expense, to raise funds on behalf of the War Bond Drive. They were honored on the steps of New York’€™s City Hall by Mayor Furiello LaGuardia for raising a record-breaking 89 million dollars in just three days, and continued raising money throughout the year. After completing filming on €œHit The Ice,€ they continued fund raising –€“ with disastrous health results for  Lou. He contracted Rheumatic fever, resulting in heart damage that led years later to his death. It also prevented him from working for over a year. During that year,  Bud Abbott refused to appear with a different comedian due to his loyalty to his partner, but continued to host their weekly radio show.

In 1944, Bud Abbott was having contract renegotiation difficulties with Universal Pictures. As a result, during the filming of €œIn Society, €Bud and Lou refused to do re-shoots  and every day, at exactly 4:00 p.m., whether they were in the middle of a scene or in the middle of a line, would immediately cease working and go home. Interestingly enough, this led to the practice of shooting a scene from multiple angles with multiple cameras, which has since become common practice. Eventually,  new contracts were signed, and Bud and Lou went on to make €œLost in a Harem€œ, and in 1945 €œAbbott and Costello in Hollywood,€ €œHere Come the Co-Eds€ and €œThe Naughty Nineties€ (containing the definitive version of their famous Who’€™s on First? routine).

Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948In 1946,  Bud Abbott and Lou Costello moved their weekly radio show, €œThe Abbott and Costello Show to the NBC network, where it remained through 1949, but other than that the show remained unchanged. In that same year, they produced two of their most outstanding films, €œLittle Giant€ and €œThe Time of their Lives.€ Both deviated from their standard formula, with the comedy no longer being driven by the rapid-fire verbal jousting between Abbott and Costello, instead being more character-based comedies –€“ although fine films, they did poorly at the box office. In 1947, Bud Abbott returned to his standard€ movie formula, with €œBuck Privates Come Home (a sequel to their first blockbuster hit, €œBuck Privates€œ) and €œThe Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap€œ. The next year continued in the same way with €œThe Noose Hangs High€ and €œMexican Hayride€ –€“ until their final movie of 1948, which changed the direction of Bud’€™s career –€“ €œBud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein€ –€” a large financial hit, and leading to a bevy of movies following the same formula –€“ €œAbbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff  (1949),€ €œAbbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man  (1951),€ €œAbbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd  (1952),€ €œAbbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  (1953),€ €œAbbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Cops  (1955),€ €œAbbott and Costello Meet the Mummy  (1955)€.  In addition to the €œAbbott and Costello Meet …€ formula, Bud Abbott continued making other films with his partner, including €œAbbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion(1950),€ €œComin’€™ Round the Mountain(1951),€ €œLost in Alaska (1952),€ €œAbbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953),€ €œJack And The Beanstalk  (1952),€ and €œDance with Me Henry  (1956).€ Although still popular, Bud’€™s movie career seemed to be winding down.

However,  television greeted Bud with open arms with €œThe Abbott and Costello Show  (1952-1954),€  reusing many of the most popular movie routines on their weekly TV series –€“ thankfully, the entire series now available on DVD.  Abbott & Costello - who's on first?In 1956, one year before the release of their last film together, Bud and Lou were brought together on  The Steve Allen Show  before a live nationwide viewing audience. The emotion was further heightened when  Steve Allen announced the induction of Abbott and Costello and their Gold Record of €œWho’€™s On First€ into the World-famous, Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Abbott and Costello are the first (and only, to date) non-baseball playing celebrities ever to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Over these same years, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’€™s off-screen relationship had become more and more strained. Their  partnership nearly dissolved before  in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s — a  rift that was healed by Bud Abbott’s suggestion  for a name for the organization that the two had been building for underpriviliged children in Los Angeles –€“ the Lou Costello, Jr., Youth Foundation, for underprivileged children.€ Lou was truly touched by Bud’€™s willingness to honor Lou’€™s dead son, but the underlying tensions remained, and led to an eventual dissolving of their partnership in 1957. Their partnership had been strained for many reasons –€” Lou’€™s increasing attempts at control, the stress of Bud trying to hide his lifelong epilepsy, and Bud’€™s increasing drinking (partly due to an attempt to control his epilepsy through alcohol) –€” but this  time the break was permanent. In that same year, both Bud and Lou became officially bankrupt, after tax issues with the IRS. Not long afterwards, Bud’€™s longtime partner, Lou Costello, died in 1959 from heart failure, brought on by the heart damage caused by the Rheumatic fever he had contracted years before.

Bud tried to restart his career with a new partner, Candy Candido, but he wasn’€™t successful. His final television appearances included a performance in a dramatic episode of General Electric Theater in 1961 and later provided his own voice for the  animated cartoon series Abbott and Costello  in 1966.  Bud Abbott eventually died of cancer, after suffering from two strokes, on April 24, 1974.  Bud Abbott has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: the radio star is located on 6333 Hollywood Blvd., motion pictures star is located on 1611 Vine St., and the TV star is located on 6740 Hollywood Blvd.


23 thoughts on “Bud Abbott biography

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