Abbott and Costello — Nuts to You, Bud and Lou (1941) 🇺🇸
If you’re howling at Abbott and Costello — and who isn’t? — have another laugh with the boys right now, in the funniest interview ever given by these clowns in clover.
by Charles Darnton
Rawr milk! That’s what he was howling for, rawr milk. But did the big baby go and get it himself? Not by a quartful. He made the poor little fella do it. Pushed and shoved him right up against a cow before it could have the combination picketed for being unfair to streamlined labor. There couldn’t be any argument about that, because the pint-sized milker was all dry. The wonder was the cow would stand for it instead of giving him a kick in the pants. Yes, he milked backwards.
It looked as if New Jersey, where the cows come from, had a lot to answer for, what with those two dairy workers— an inside job, or I’m no Sherlock — coming from that state, too. You’ll see for yourself how it is when you clamp your eye on their latest epic, “Ride ‘Em, Cowboy.” Naturally, they’re nuts to you... Bud and Lou, further identified as Abbott and Costello. But watch them closely and it will dawn on you, as it did on me, that there’s something classical, something born of inspired humor, in this precious pair; for here, my lords and ladies, are the Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa of the movies.
Waiting to talk with them, or get in a word edgeways, I had plenty of time to size them up. Bud struck me as clean-cut, Lou as if he had been cut out with a circular saw and hooped together by a journeyman cooper. They had come a long way without showing the slightest sign of wear-and-tear. On them burlesque had left no ribald mark nor vaudeville stamped them with routine. Out of Broadway shows and radio patter they had come into their own — Hollywood. Just as they found themselves, so Universal had found them to be a double-shift gold mine. Suddenly, sensationally, “Buck Privates,” then “In The Navy,” had made Abbott and Costello clowns in clover.
Now, seen close-to, it was apparent that success had not spoiled them. Although in their irrepressible exuberance on the. set they seemed occasionally to get a bit out of hand, the fact was that their keen-eyed director, Arthur Lubin, not above enjoying the fun, always had them at the snap of his fingers. Only John Grant remained smileless. Pale and drawn, Grant showed that being official author to Abbott and Costello was a tragic trade. So far as that goes, it was pretty tough for me when the boys cut loose in what might laughingly be called an interview.
“You know me, kid, safety first,” Bud opened up. “I’ll sit you in between us.”
“Then we gotcha right where we wantcha,” gloated Lou.
“Don’t kill him in here,” advised Bud. “Wait till we get him outside, where it won’t be so messy.”
They ganged up on me so fast I was lost for words. But they weren’t. Costello was a verbal rubber ball, fairly bouncing with words, while Abbott wasn’t exactly tongue-tied. With every prospect of a fight, I desperately asked if they had picked each other for size.
“I have to hold him when they get the
wind machine on him,” remarked Costello with a scornful glance at his side-kick, “or else he’d blow away.”
“Is that so?” sneered Abbott. “Is that so? Well, let me tell you something. There’s nothing skinny about me. I weigh a hundred and sixty.”
“Huh!” sniffed Lou. “Me, I’m a hun‘erd an’ ninety-five. I could take it off, but I love to eat. Still an’ all, it’d be easy for me get down to a hun’erd an’ thirty-five like I used to be eight years ago, an’ one o’ these days I’m gonna do it.”
“Like hell you are!” roared Abbott. “You want to ruin me? Why, do you realize,” and he turned to me, “that every pound on that guy is worth dough to me, big dough? And I’m going to keep it there, no matter what it costs me. Every time I get him in a restaurant I keep pushing steaks in his face.”
“It ain’t steaks that does it,” murmured Costello. “It’s pie ally mode — y’know, with gobs of ice cream on top of it. Boy, can I use that stuff!”
“I don’t care what it is,” snapped Abbott, “just so long as you don’t let yourself get run down.”
“Mebbe,” conceded Lou, “I’ll stay like I am. I guess people kinda take to me that way. A while ago I’m at a preview of one of our pictures an’ settin’ right behind two ladies. Course, they ain’t wise to me bein’ so close to ‘em. But when they see me on the screen, one lady says to the other lady sweetlike, ‘Isn’t he cute? I’d like to pick him up and hug him.’ I wanted to hop up, drop in her lap, an’ say, ‘Here I am!’”
“If you had,” drily remarked Bud, “that’s what you’d have been saying a little later down at the jail.”
It may have been selfish, but it was a great relief to have them fighting between themselves instead of rounding on me. This feeling was strengthened when I learned that Costello, starting at IS, had been in fourteen prize-fights and won twelve of them. It didn’t matter in the least to me that he added, “Just amachoor.” But all that time he had hankered to be an actor, attributing this stirring of histrionic blood in his veins to the fact that his grandfather had been a minstrel man. He and Abbott now had been together for eleven years after meeting at a Minsky burlesque house in New York. Lou had said, “You come right from heaven,” but Bud said, “No, Brooklyn.” Then they discovered they had both been born in New Jersey, Abbott at Asbury Park, the proud son of a circus press agent and a bareback rider, Costello at Paterson of an Italian father and Irish mother.
“My real name’s Cristello,” Lou informed me. “I changed it when I came to Hollywood in 1927 and was a stunt man in ‘Old Kentucky,’ with Helen Costello. That was because I admired her and that Maurice Costello was my favorite actor.”
When I asked both to name their favorite actor of today, they said in the same breath, “Him,” “Him,” and pointed across me at each other. They weren’t overlooking any bets. As to Costello’s favorite actress, he promptly announced, “My little daughter. She’s two-and-a-half. Didja see ‘In the Navy?’ Well, she was the one in the baby carriage who pulled “The letter outa the hood an’ handed it to me. My second favorite ackress is Rosalind Russell.”
(Hi-ya, Roz, take a bow!)
Abbott was cagey concerning his first, second or even third favorite actress, saying, “You’re not going to get me into that kind of a jam. I know how temperamental actresses are.”
“Onct,” recalled Costello, “there was a dancer in a burlesque troupe with us who was so temper’mental that she ups an’ kicks out her own bridgework.”
As both feelingly reviewed other treasured memories of bygone days, I was moved to conclude they must be very happy sever their present enormous success. “I lay in bed at three or four in the morning,” confessed Lou, an’ keep sayin’ ‘Am I lucky!’”
“Nobody thanks his God more than I do,” fervently declared Bud. “Remember that, brother.”.
“An’ now when I lay in bed, resumed Lou reminiscently, “I think back to the nights I used to sleep in an old Ford parked on a side-street over by M-G-M, where I was work-in’ as a laborer. That saved me room rent. I gotta swell new trailer now, but I sleep at home with my wife and two kids.”
“I’ve got a wife and two dogs, said Bud. “Dogs are more permanent than kids. I mean, kids grow up, get married, and leave home. Dogs get married, too, but they don’t leave home.”
“Funny, this marryin’ bus’ness, philosophized Lou. “One day me an’ Bud separated a coupla burlesque girls who were havin’ a fight, an’ now we’re tangled up with ‘em for life. Yeah, they married us.
“That’s the way it goes,” sighed Bud. “But Lou and I are still friends and neighbors.”
“We live in the Valley, just a coupla acres away,” said Costello. “From my place I kin always hear him.”
“That’s just his echo coming back to him,” Abbott assured me.
Lou retorted: “ ‘Cept for the noise Bud makes it’s nice an’ quiet out there. An’ I sure get a lotta pleasure outa my sunflower garden. Expect to make a lotta dough outa it, too.”
“Tell him how,” prompted Bud, giving me the wink.
“You’ve heard of seedless raisins, assumed Lou. “Okay. That’s what give me the idee. I got feelin’ sorry for them raisins. Why shouldn’t they have seeds? It didn’t seem fair. An’ alla time there was them sunflowers of mine with more seeds than they needed, just lousy with ‘em. So I start harvestin’ sunflower seeds. I wanta have so many I kin go into this here thing wholesale. Get it? I buy up seedless raisins an’ put sunflower seeds in ‘em. It ain’t that I wanta make a fortune so much as that I wanta give seedless raisins a break.”
“People come from miles around just to see his sunflower garden,” marveled Bud.
“But my real pet is my gopher bed,” said Lou fondly.
“That’s really something,” assented Bud. “If everything works out well, it will develop one of the great unnatural wonders of the world. Go ahead, kid, and give him a rough idea of the plan.”
“Mebbe I better start by tellin’ him how the idee comes to me,” considered Lou. “Y’know how wives are? Okay. They always wantcha to fix somethin’. ‘Fix this, fix that,’ that’s all you hear, if you’re home much. Now, me, I’m a home guy. But who wants to be runnin’ around alia time with a saw in one hand an’ a hammer in the other? What I like to do is set in a nice easy chair an’ relax. But kin I do it? Not a chance. So I gotta go out an’ set on the back steps. Well, I’m out there enjoyin’ a high fog when some gophers come up to play. They don’t bother me an’ I don’t bother them, so everything’s jake. After a day or so we kinda get acquainted. There’s the husband gopher, Bill, an’ his wife — Toots, I call her— and their kids, quite a fam’ly. They’re indust’rous, too, nothin’ lazy about ‘em. I set there watchin’ ‘em dig, an’ wham I get the big idee! I’ll have them there gophers dig a tunnel from my place to Bud’s. Y’see, we both wanta get out o’ fixin’ things for our wives. So I get me some white chalk an’ draw lines on the ground about six feet wide an’ leadin’ Bud’s way, figurin’ the gophers’ll dig accordin’ to plan. But they don’t. Then it comes to me that if unemployed gophers getta job they wanta to be paid for it. But you can’t offer a gopher a coupla bucks a day, or whatever the scale is. You gotta pay ‘em in vittles. Well, I sneaked one thing an’ another outa the kitchen, but they wouldn’t go for it. I did a lotta research on the subjeck without gettin’ anywheres an’ was ready to say the hell with the tunnel when I happened to think of salami. That was their dish. So far, I’m just rehearsin’ ‘em, but if the salami holds out I figure the gophers will get the underground to Bud’s place before the rainy season. Then all we gotta do is cut doors to the tunnel through our cellars, an’ when our wives ast us to fix somethin’ we just duck an’ hide.”
“And play rummy,” added Bud.
I suspected it was their love of this game that had led them to become Valley neighbors.
“There’s more to it than that,” said Lou. “Y’know, when you live out in the country, as I did when Bud used to come an’ visit us, your friends are li’ble to repose on you.”
“Not re- but im-,” corrected Bud, im- as in imp — impose.”
“Re-pose is what I said an’ re-pose is what I mean,” stoutly maintained Lou. “Like I said, your friends come out from town an’ when it’s time for ‘em to scram they’re so tired they wantcha to put ‘em up for the night. Why, I remember onct— “
“I’m ready, boys, whenever you are,” interrupted the genial director. “Just wanted to speak to you.”
“Is that all?” inquired Lou.
“What do you mean, is that all?” barked Bud. “Do you want him to kiss you?”
“I wanted to ask,” plaintively explained Lou, “did he speak to the cow?”
First with “Buck Privates,” then with “In The Navy,” Bud and Lou have coaxed bigger belly laughs from Mr. and Mrs. America than any other comedians in a decade. Now they’re up to their zany antics in a new film, “Ride ‘Em, Cowboy” — see scene above, and center below. Between scenes they horse around the Universal lot letting the slapstick swing where it may. Does it swing! Not even Deanna Durbin is sacred.
Vera Vague, Jerry Colonna and Dorothy Lewis, starring in Republic’s “Ice-Capades of 1941”.
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Source: Screenland, November 1941