Bud Abbott : 1974 Obituary

1974 Obituary

New York Times-April 25, 1974


. Bud Abbott, a tall, thin, I-am-not-amused straightman who fed Lou Costello the lines and the situations that got the pair into trouble and laid their audiences into the aisles with laughter, died of cancer yesterday in his home in Woodland Hills, a Los Angeles suburb. He was 78 years old.
. The team split up in 1957, and Mr. Costello died two years later. For the decade after their first big success, "Buck Privates," in 1941 they were among the top 10 moneymaking stars.
. During the years of World War II, the team's reworking of comedic routines, slapstick pratfalls and pies in the face seem to be just what Americans needed.
. Mr. Abbott was tall, thin, sardonic, insulting, ever ready to slap down his partner as some idiotic prank, while Mr. Costello was the button, short, fat and always the sympathetic character - the classic partnership in the classic comedy formula that dates as far back as Aristophanes and his comedy,"Lysistrates," in the fifth century BC.
. Together the pair created a new mass audience on the radio, in the movies, and later, on television for the slapstick comedy that once had audiences howling in the burlesque theaters and in vaudeville performances.
. The older the gag, the better it went over, so far as the team was concerned. For example:
"Hey, Abbott, where do all the little bugs go in winter?"
"Search me."
"No, thanks. I just wanted to find out."


. The pair resisted attempts at subtle analysis. In 1941, when Frank S Nugent of the New York Times was interviewing them and speculating on
"the weird, yeast-like forces responsible for their rise in the world," Mr. Costello, combative, asked, "what's the matter? You don't like our stuff?" And Mr. Abbott, with a modest wave of his hand said, "why try to explain it? We're doing all right, aren't we?" Mr. Nugent noted that "he wasn't asking."
. Even audiences that knew them only from television replays of their most famous routine, "Who's on first?," Would probably agree. (This routine-the wise-guy versus dumbbell dialogue about a baseball line-up-was placed on permanent display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown New York in 1956 in the form of a gold recording and copy of the text.)
. William A Abbott was born into show business in Asbury Park New Jersey. His father, Harry Abbott senior was an advance man for the Ringling Brothers Circus his mother was a horseback rider. He grew up on Coney Island and left public school 100 for good, as he put it, "when he got big enough to out run the truant officers."
. On Brooklyn's Red Hook waterfront, the youth remembered emptying a couple of schooners of beer with strangers. He woke to find himself a shanghaied stoker on a ship headed for Norway. When he made it home his father got him a job as assistant cashier at the Casino Theater in Brooklyn.
. Saving the pennies, Mr. Abbott organized "tab shows" typically for girls, a pianist, a straightman and a comic-touring burlesque houses as far away as Cleveland and Toronto. But he was back at the Casino box office four years later in 1931 When Costello was on stage and needed a substitute straightman. "We clicked from the start," Mr. Abbott said.
. They kept going through the depression years until 1938, when the big break came in an avalanche. A booker of the Loew's circuit liked their act in Washington and signed them for a week at Loew's State. Kate Smith's scout saw them and invited them to a guest spot on her radio show.
. Appearances multiplied. In 1939 they had a chance to do their stuff in a Broadway show, "The Streets Of Paris," with veteran clowns like Bobby Clark and a wiggly new Brazilian named Carmen Miranda. Brooks Atkinson, theatre critic of the New York Times, welcomed the new young pair of Abbott and Costello as reassurance of "the future of low comedy."
. "They go the whole hog in buffoonery," he wrote "-slaps on the face, splashing water, literally upsetting the apple cart climax."
. They were grabbed by Universal for a spate of Hollywood pictures-four in 1941, four in 1942 and one in 1943. Critics complain that they were Wearing out their welcome with repetitive material and cookie productions. The pace eased when an illness that Mr. Costello suffered idled them for a year.
. Meanwhile pictures such as "Pardon My Sarong" and "Whodunit?" gave audiences the laughter they craved.
. Their antics produced a financial reward as well as approval from their audiences. In 1944 the Treasury Department published earnings figures for the 12 months ended August 31, 1943. Universal Pictures paid the team $789,628. Later, they earned more.
. "They thought it would never stop," their long-time manager, Eddie Sherman, said yesterday. "They spent it all each year, forgetting that

they had a partner, Uncle Sam."
. Stuck with tax bills when their careers were waning, Mr. Abbott was forced to sell his $250,000 house and property. He cleared up all his debts by 1960.
. Offstage, the two comics often argued, just as they did onstage, and their conflicts were serious. Mr. Abbott liked arguing, while Mr. Costello was just plain stubborn.


. One of their steady disagreements was on the subject of which was which. Mr. Costello was annoyed that the public often confused them as performers, while Mr. Abbott felt that vague identifications were go 5b4 od for the team because public confusion meant public wonder and talk.
. Mr. Castello also felt neglected when people called him Abbott.
. The teams association with Universal ended in 1955 after the production of "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy." The next year they did "Dance with Me, Henry" for United Artists. The partnership was amicably dissolved in 1957.
. Mr. Abbott continued to make occasional television appearances and in 1961 revived some of the old acts on stage with a new partner, Candy Candido, impersonating the Costello role as closely as possible.
. He suffered a series of strokes in recent years and lived in a modest home contrasting with the high living he enjoyed in his heyday.
. Surviving are his widow Betty; son, and daughter and four grandchildren.

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Re: 1974 Obituary

Groucho Marx called Bud Abbott the greatest straight man in show business.

Re: 1974 Obituary

Groucho and Bud shared the same birthday October 2nd --- different years --- does anyone know if Bud was Jewish ?

Re: 1974 death

😇 👌

RIP Bud;

Fans sure miss you

Re: 1974 Obituary

Bud had some Jewish ancestry I believe on his mother's side.

Re: 1974 Obituary

There are debates about Abbott's religion on-line. It depends on who tells the story.