If you haven’t heard of Abbott and Costello, you are in for a treat. When I was in elementary school, there was only so much my dad could show to me. So, he stuck to comedies mostly and some of my favorite films featured the famous comedy duo, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
They started in radio and are most famous for their “Who’s on First?” sketch. As a kid, I watched them in a very simplistic way. Abbott was the straight man, Costello was the funny one. They were out to make people laugh, plain and simple.
The Time of Their Lives, made in 1946, stuck with me though as something more than a comical farce. I was a seven or eight when I first saw it and vividly remember running out of the room because I was scared. My dad yelled behind me, “It’s supposed to be funny!” Let me tell you. I was truly terrified of Abbott and Costello. True Story.
To give you a little background, The Time of Their Lives follows Horatio Prim (Lou Costello), a Revolutionary War hero, who’s set on marrying his sweetheart, Nora (Anna Gillis). She’s a maid in Danbury manor and decides to take Horatio’s letter of commendation from George Washington to Mistress Melanie (Marjorie Reynolds).
One thing leads to another that results in the wrongful executions of Melanie and Horatio by soldiers who believe they are traitors. They throw their bodies in a well and curse their souls to be bound to Danbury Manor until crack of doom….unless some evidence proves them patriots. Melanie and Horatio hang around as ghosts until what was modern day (1946) when new tenants move in. One of them is an ancestor of a butler (who treated Lou like crap) from the revolutionary era, Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott).
Costello and Melanie decide to haunt the new tenants and fun antics ensue including the most terrifying while at the same time hilarious seance ever on screen. While this film is a lot of fun to watch, it was apparently not as fun to make. Costello and Abbott were having a feud during shooting and halfway through, Costello called the director and told him he wanted to switch roles with Abbott or he wouldn’t come back to set. Well, they waited him out and he was lovely when he finally returned.
The great formula of the Abbott and Costello movies is real horror movie tropes contrasting the comedy antics of Bud and Lou. In Time of their Lives, there are parts that I truly find scary, despite knowing that it’s a comedy. It makes the laughs bigger when you feel it grounded in something as opposed to just watch a comedy sketch.
I’m also a sucker for ghost stories and think this one is a lot of fun! There’s something for everyone genre-wise. Additionally, the special effects are great. Their rudimentary quality strangely makes me suspend my disbelief more. They don’t look perfect, but they don’t need to.
Also, Lou trying to dematerialize…you’ll understand.
Vintage Trailer below: