Review of The Time of Their Lives

AbbottAAAAAAA-BBAHHHHHHET!!!!       Costello      

 “Cut! Actors and Actresses, take five. Uh, Mr.   Blogman, may I have a word with you?”

Blogman Dan: Sure! What’s up?

Inner Critic: You really shouldn’t have Lou Costello shouting “Abbott.” It’s not appropriate for this film.

Blogman Dan: Aw gee, Mr. Inner Critic, but when I reviewed that other Abbott and Costello haunted house movie, Hold that Ghost, I began the post with Costello’s signature “AAAA-BBAHHHHET” and the post was a success.

Inner Critic: You were wrong about that too. In Hold that Ghost, the actors do not go by the names Abbott and Costello.  Abbott’s character is Chuck Murray and Costello plays the role of Ferdie Jones. So it would not have made any sense for Ferdie to be calling out a name that was not even in the movie.

Blogman Dan: Okay, so I made one boo boo!

Inner Critic: I’m afraid this time around, you made more than one. In The Time of Their Lives , Bud Abbott plays both Cuthbert Greenway and Dr. Ralph Greenway. Lou Costello plays Horatio Prim. Once again, Abbot and Costello go by different names. In fact in most of their films they go by the names the writers of  each respective film have given them.

Secondly, the two men are not partners in this film.

Blogman Dan: They’re not?

Inner Critic: No! They’re not even friends. So it would not make any sense to have Costello call out to him! The next time you begin a blog post, I suggest you….



Every once in a while, you have to punch that inner critic right in the nose! An annoying buttinski he can be!

Hi everyone, welcome to my review of The Time of Their Lives. This is a hilarious film that is also surprisingly creepy at the same time. And yes it’s true: Abbott and Costello are not partners.  It was far from their first film and far from their last. I guess somewhere in the middle the comedy duo just wanted to experiment with a different formula. And it worked! I loved their brilliant performances as stand-alones.  Sometimes they are in cahoots and sometimes they work together. But this “togetherness” is made difficult by the fact that Costello is a ghost and Abbott is not. Abbott cannot see Costello. And there was no cellular coverage for interdimensional communication (it was the 1940’s what to you expect?), so it is rather difficult for them to talk to one another.

The movie begins during the Revolutionary War. Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) is a travelling tinker who has come to the estate of Tom Danbury to meet with his love Nora O’Leary, one of Danbury’s servants. He wishes to marry her. To win over Danbury’s approval for such a marriage, Horatio has a letter of recommendation from General George Washington. Ah but he runs into all sorts of hurdles. First, there’s Cuthbert Greenway (Bud Abbott), Danbury’s butler. He wants to be the one to marry Nora. So he ends up locking poor Horatio in a crate. Furthermore, Tom Danbury turns out to be a traitor in alliance with Benedict Arnold. He kidnaps Nora and hides Horatio’s letter in secret compartment within a clock. Later on, the Patriots arrive on horseback. They burn the house down. Horatio and Melody Allen, Danbury’s fiancé, are shot and killed. (Oh yeah, Horatio had escaped from the crate by then) THEY are accused of being traitors (they were not!).  Their bodies are discarded in a well and a curse is placed on them – as traitors, their souls are bound to the A and C Timewell and its surrounding land.

For a black and while comedy flick in 1946, it was surprising to see the bodies at the bottom of the well. Not quite a barrel of laughs, or in this case, a “well” of laughs. The scene was a bit disturbing.

Time passes. One hundred seventy odd years go by. A new house is on the property. It is built to resemble the original colonial house and includes much of the original furnishings. Somehow these pieces of furniture escape the fire. I forgot how.

Anyway, four people are spending a weekend in the home. One of the occupants is Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott), a descendant of the mean old butler that locked poor Horatio in the case. Meanwhile, the ghosts of Horatio and Melody decide to haunt the house. Actually, they are searching the place for the long lost letter written by George Washington on behalf of Horatio. Perhaps it’s hidden inside one of the original furnishings (the clock!). This letter will prove the innocence of the ghosts, and they may then be free to leave the premises and rest in peace.

Now the house haunting begins! There are some “not so bad” special effects going on – pretty good for them there olden days! It was fun to see Horatio and his lady friend their semi-transparent states. It was even more fun to watch a car drive right through them. And I’ll never forget the “walking dress” that descended the staircase! Melody was wearing it but since she herself was invisible, the poor woman that saw this frightful scene was scared out of her wits!

The film does have a problem with continuity when dealing with the physical laws that govern how the ghosts can and cannot interact with physical objects. As mentioned before, a car passes through them. And yet, the ghosts are able to handle objects such as lighters, dresses, etc. They can sit their ghostly rumps down on tree branches. During their very first scene as ghosts, Horatio and Melody try to hug each other. They fail, for they pass right through each other! But later, Melody rests her arms on Horatio’s shoulders. Ah but this is a comedy, so I’ll let it go. Even the famous Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie “Ghost” had its inconsistencies. Patrick couldn’t reach out and open doors, couldn’t kiss Demi without possessing the body of Whoopie Goldberg (ewww!). But for some reason, he could sit in chairs and walk on the soles of his feet. I guess the physical laws that govern ghosts are just sooo complicated.

But you want to know what I like best about this film? I like that Costello gets revenge on Abbott. I’m not only referring to how he pranks the Dr. Ralph Greenway Abbot to get back at his ancestor Cuthbert Greenway Abbot. I’m taking in consideration the totality of Abbott and Costello’s antics across all their spooky films. In all these comedic horror movies, it’s usually Costello that is the butt of the supernatural and/or scary jokes. It’s Costello that freaks out over the moving candle in Hold that Ghost. It’s Costello that first encounters Dracula and Frankenstein in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. By the time Abbott gets around to seeing what in the heck is spooking his friend, the ghostly/monstrous shenanigans have stopped, leaving Abbot to chide his companion with an “Aww you’re imagining things!”

A and C time 2The tables have turned. Costello, as a ghost, pulls tricks on Abbott and nearly drives him out of his mind. He disturbs his sleep by playing the harpsichord. He lights his cigarette, but Abbott doesn’t see Costello- he only sees a lighter hovering in the air. He gives him a good kick in the ass over a chair! You go Costello!

Mind you, Costello gets into his own fixes as well. It just wouldn’t be an Abbott and Costello movie without hearing Lou trying to catch his breath while he is freaked out by something.

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein is probably my favorite comedy horror film from this duo. The Time of Their Lives might be my second.  Regardless, I catch all their frightfully funny films whenever they are shown on Svengoolie on Saturday nights on MeTV.  I love my Svengoolie. And you should too!


Review of Hold That Ghost


Hold That GhostThat’s how Lou Costello calls out to his friend Bud Abbott whenever he is in trouble. Of course you knew that. I mean, everyone knows about Abbott and Costello, right???

Okay, maybe not. Young readers might not have a clue about these two comedic geniuses. Not quite on par with Laurel and Hardy, but still they held their own. Bud Abbot is usually the straight man while Lou Costello is the butt of the jokes. They first came on the scene as radio entertainers in the late 1930s and thrilled radio audiences with their “Who’s on First?” bit. Soon they were making movies, several of which were horror comedies.

To appreciate the movie Hold That Ghost, one has to appreciate the antics of Abbott and Costello. I do appreciate their humor, but this might be my least favorite of the frightfully funny films that they made.

Here’s a brief synopsis. Through some rather strange circumstances, Chuck Murray (Bud Abbott) and Ferdie Jones (Lou Costello) inherit a rural tavern from a deceased mobster. They get stranded at their new “home”, along with four other people, including Joan Davis who plays a kooky radio actress. Another tag along is gangster and lawyer Charlie Smith. Rumor has it there is money hidden somewhere in the house/tavern and Charlie wants the money.   The tavern hasn’t been used for some twenty odd years; it is dusty and sheets are draped over the furniture. In other words, it looks like the typical inside of a haunted house.

I’m leaving a lot out in this description. But who cares, you get the drift – several people are forced to spend the night in a house that might be haunted, one of whom is criminal with ulterior motives. A familiar plotline, but with Abbott and Costello, it’s done in a humorous way.

Hold That Ghost was their first horror comedy. But for me, it was their last , meaning that I had seen all their other scare-laugh pictures before I got around to seeing this one. I think I have been spoiled by the ones that have come later, mainly the “Abbott and Costello Meet…” movies. This duo has met them all; Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, etc. etc. etc.   I like all the “Meet” Movies, and since they came later, maybe Abbot and Costello had the benefit of learning from experience and perfecting their act, a luxury they did not have when making Hold that Ghost. But I don’t know if this adequately explains why I prefer the “Meet”s to Hold that Ghost. All the movies feature the running gag of Costello being at the butt of the jokes. He witnesses something odd and terrifying and by the time his buddy Abbott arrives at the scene, everything is back to normal, so Abbott accuses his pal of “seeing things”.

In Hold That Ghost this happens several times. Costello hangs his jacket on a coat rack in his bedroom, which activates a lever that transforms the room into a speakeasy’s delight. From out of the walls come the roulette tables, bars and other prohibition era delights. Of course, Costello doesn’t see the transformation; he only sees the new set up. Scared out of his wits, he runs to get Abbott. By the time he shows up, it is a bedroom again, because somehow Costello reset it before running to fetch his friend. Later in the movie, Costello sits with Joan Davis. He sees a candelabra slide across the table. Joan is looking away and misses it. It happens again and again and soon Abbott comes in and scolds his panic-stricken friend.

This happens in Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein. Costello sees Dracula rise from his coffin. When Abbott comes along, the coffin is empty. Costello runs into the Frankenstein monster. Abbott sees him not! So am I saying that this kind of bit was funny in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but not Hold That Ghost? I hope I am not saying that, because the gags are virtually the same and Hold That Ghost hold-that-ghost-2came first!   Maybe I wanted the house that they inherited to be a little more ghostly and less automated (i.e. the opening of secret passages). Most of the ghosts were men hiding underneath sheets. Yeah, yeah, I get it; this is supposed to be funny. But maybe I wanted more humorous encounters with the supernatural. I…I just don’t know. It’s not a bad film. Maybe it’s even good. Maybe it’s…I don’t know.

Well, since I’m not providing a very thought-provoking review (“Maybe it’s…I don’t know”…yeah, that’s an intelligent analysis for ya!), I’ll fill up some space with little bits of trivia:

    • Since World War II was right around the corner, films about the military were in demand. Abbot and Costello had already come out with Buck Privates in Jan 1941, and Oh Charile (The original title for Hold That Ghost) was due out next. But, they held it back so that they could follow up with another service orientated comedy – In the Navy. I wonder – was this film renamed Hold That Ghost because the film’s release date was postponed for a few weeks? (The film being “held back”.)
    • The film has performances by Ted Lewis and his Orchestra and The Andrew Sisters. Kind of awkward for a haunted house movie, but since the Andrew Sisters performed in both of the preceding service films, maybe the producers thought that these singing sisters were going to be a staple for A & C films. Thus they added in the performances after the film was already shot.
    • I already mentioned that Joan Davis stars in the film. But did you know that Joan Davis is the same Joan in the TV sitcom I Married Joan? What’s that? You’ve never heard of I Married Joan? Let’s move on then.
    • Shemp Howard stars in this film. Please tell me you know who he is. Please?

Most reviewers praise this film. Who am I to go against the grain? I have included a link to the film. I don’t know how long it will be available, but while it’s there, watch the film and decide for yourself whether this is a good film or not.
Hold That Ghost – Abbott and Costello