In this zany Abbott and Costello musical comedy, Bud Abbott plays a ham actor and Lou Costello, his dimwitted assistant on the Mississippi showboat, the River Queen. When the boat docks in St. Louis, Bud and Lou try to rescue Captain Sam from a poker game with three card sharks, but they are too late. The gamblers win a controlling interest in the River Queen and — to Captain Sam’s dismay — set up a crooked casino operation on board. Before ridding the showboat of the villains, Abbott and Costello perform several of their most famous bits, including the complete rendition of their hysterical Who’s on First? routine, which has become one of the most popular comedy moments ever captured on film.
Trivia about Abbott and Costello’s The Naughty Nineties:
- Contains the famous “Who’s on First?” routine. The routine began life as part of Abbott and Costello’s Vaudeville act, then it debuted in their first film One Night in the Tropics (1940), though none of the previous incarnations were as lengthy as the one in this movie.
- The only baseball defensive position NOT mentioned in the “Who’s on First?” routine: Right Field.
- The scene of Abbott and Costello doing their classic “Who’s on First?” routine is run continuously at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It is regarded as the best version of this routine in existence.
- Listen closely during the “Who’s On First” routine. The laughter that can be heard faintly belongs to the film crew and director. After numerous takes trying to eliminate it, the power of Abbott and Costello to elicit laughter during this sequence proved too strong. The director had no choice but to leave the giggling in.
- Lou Costello recycles the “Lifesavers Candy” routine Groucho Marx used in the Marx Brothers‘ hit Horse Feathers (1932).
- The boat used as the showboat “River Queen” in this production was also used as the “Cotton Palace” in Show Boat (1936)
- The Scottish folk song, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean is used to hilarious effect when Costello auditions for Captain Sam’s riverboat show by singing it. Behind him, Abbott shouts directions to the stage crew while they set up a backdrop curtain (“Move it to the left”, “Lower”, “Higher”, “Lift up the right leg”, etc.) Oblivious to this, Costello thinks Abbott is directing him and follows his every command, moving to the left, singing higher, lower, and so forth.
- Rolling Down the River, Music by Edgar Fairchild, Lyrics by Jack Brooks
- Ma Blushin’ Rosie, (1900) Music by John Stromberg
- On a Sunday Afternoon, (1902) Music by Harry von Tilzer Lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling
- Strike Up the Band, Here Comes a Sailor (1900) Music by Chas. B. Ward
- I’d Leave My Happy Home for You, Written by Will A. Heelan and Harry von Tilzer
- My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Written by H.J. Fuller
- Nora Malone, Written by Junie McCree and Harry von Tilzer
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1908) Music by Albert von Tilzer, Lyrics by Jack Norworth
- I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind, (1945) Music by Edgar Fairchild, Lyrics by Jack Brooks
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Music by Edgar Fairchild, Lyrics by Jack Brooks