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Public Enemies

Lou Costello and Bud Abbott in Public Enemies

Public Enemies, The Abbott and Costello Show season 2, originally aired March 6, 1954

In Public Enemies, a newspaper runs a story about safe-cracker “Dapper Dan” and accidentally includes Lou’s photograph. This has a band of thieves living in the rooming house force him to join them in a warehouse robbery.

Public Enemies – Act I

Public Enemies begins innocently enough, with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello doing a “guess your weight” routine, to raise money. If they don’t guess your weight accurately, it’s free! But first Bobby Barber cons them with a heavy weight, then Lou gives a free weigh to a pretty young lady — which becomes important later.

While Bud’s away, Lou sticks his head into a window at the police station. A police photographer takes the mugshot of criminal, Dapper Dan. But he ducks, and Lou’s photo is taken by mistake! Also important later.

Criminal Dapper Dan getting his mugshot photo taken in "Public Enemies"

But first, an overweight lady wants to be weighed. And she breaks the scale! Bud uses a jack from an automotive shop, and Lou “helps” by handing her a bunch of helium balloons.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello lifting the fat lady out of the broken weight machine

Back at the boarding house, Sid Fields is showing a room to a group of new tenants, one of whom is the pretty young lady from earlier — Fifi. Unknown to him, they’re actually a bunch of crooks, who’ve just stolen $60,000!

A gang of crooks are new tenants at Sid Fields' boarding house in "Public Enemies"

The crooks are eating at a restaurant, when Fifi is having one of her fainting spells. She makes it back to the apartment building. But, she goes into the boys’ apartment by mistake! And collapses into a dead faint. Lou tries to revive her, but she eventually comes around on her own. But, she wants a kiss before he’ll go! Then, after some slapstick, as he’s taking her into her own apartment, she keeps kissing him. In front of her jealous husband, Chopper! The other crooks have returned, and Chopper is beating up Lou — until another crook points out from the newspaper that it’s Dapper Dan he’s beating up!

Public Enemies – Act II

And now, the con is on! Lou has to pretend to be Dapper Dan for his own safety, and he gets Bud to pretend to be Dapper’s partner, “Slick”. The crooks allow “Dan” to go back to his apartment for a moment to get his pajamas. And Lou, not as dumb as he looks, takes the opportunity to call Mike the Cop and tip him off on their plans – a warehouse robbery!

All seems well until they’re actually at the warehouse …. Another member of the gang knows slick, and Bud isn’t him! So, it’s a slapstick chase through the warehouse, reminiscent of the Three Stooges.

The chase is interesting, even though it’s a reworking of a Three Stooges sketch. The “knock out a crook and use him as a dummy” is almost exactly the same. There are some new pieces of humor, such as how Lou ends that bit, Bud and a chasing crooks walking past each other unknowingly, and finally Lou hiding in a large pipe. That the crooks use as a battering ram to break down a door!

Eventually, the police round up the crooks, and Lou literally stumbles through the police car, ending the episode.

Trivia for Public Enemies

  • The warehouse scene was inspired by a similar scene from the 1947 Three Stooges short Fright Night, also written by Clyde Bruckman and also featured Claire Carleton.
  • The idea of having a criminal duck while having his photo taken in the jail, so Lou’s photo is used instead, is taken from Buster Keaton’s The Goat

Funny routines in Public Enemies

  • Lou Costello trying to guess people’s weight
  • Lou trying to get the fainted Fifi to her own apartment.
  • The warehouse chase scene, where Lou uses an unconscious crook as a dummy, to try and fool a second crook.

Cast of characters

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