Lou Costello


Actor
Lou Costello

About

Also Known As
Louis Francis Cristillo, [Lou] Costello
Birth Place
Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Born
March 06, 1906
Died
March 03, 1959
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

One-half of the popular American comedy team Abbott and Costello, Lou Costello was beloved by millions as the hapless, good-natured sap whose fireplug physique and manic energy hilariously played off Bud Abbott's fast-talking wise guy persona. Costello's career in vaudeville took off only after his pairing with Abbott, a fellow performer and talent promoter. Growing recognition on the st...

Photos & Videos

Abbott and Costello in Hollywood - Publicity Stills
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd - Movie Poster
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Ann Costello
Wife
Survived him.

Bibliography

"The Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films"
Jeffrey S. Miller, McFarland (2000)
"Lou's on First"
Chris Costello with Raymond Strait, St. Martin's Press (1981)
"The Abbott and Costello Book"
Jim Mulholland (1975)

Notes

"The great success of Abbott and Costello was attributed by the critics to their old-fashioned knock-about style, combined with a modern toughness of talk. Abbott was the lean and hawk-eyed wise guy, the sharp-shooter who always got the last word; Costello the good-natured dimwit who always got it in the neck--except when the worm occasionally turned. The average viewer never analyzed them--he just laughed." --From his March 4, 1959 The New York Times obituary.

A gold record of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine is displayed at The Baseball Hall of Fame.

Biography

One-half of the popular American comedy team Abbott and Costello, Lou Costello was beloved by millions as the hapless, good-natured sap whose fireplug physique and manic energy hilariously played off Bud Abbott's fast-talking wise guy persona. Costello's career in vaudeville took off only after his pairing with Abbott, a fellow performer and talent promoter. Growing recognition on the stages of New York in the 1930s eventually led to a guest stint on a widely-heard national radio program, followed by their first film as a team, "One Night in the Tropics" (1940). With the massive success of their sophomore effort, "Buck Privates" (1941), Costello and his partner became two of the biggest movie stars of the wartime era. More hit films like "Pardon My Sarong" (1942), "In Society" (1944) and "The Naughty Nineties" (1945), combined with a popular radio program of their own, kept them at the top of the entertainment heap, despite critical dismissal of their oeuvre as being decidedly lowbrow. The comedy-monster mash-up "Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein" (1948) marked not only the beginning of their repetitive "Abbot and Costello Meet." phase, but also of their over-exposure and consequent slump in popularity. The comedy "Dance with Me, Henry" (1956) marked their final film appearance together before the team split in 1957 and Costello passed away two years later. As a testament to the simple genius of Abbott and Costello, their most famous comedy bit, "Who's on First?" was enshrined on video at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Born Louis Francis Cristillo on March 6, 1906 in Paterson, NJ to parents Helen and Sebastian Cristillo, "Lou," although a precocious prankster at a young age, initially focused on athletics. Despite his lack of height, he was an accomplished basketball player, known for his skill at the free throw, as well as a formidable boxer. Sometime after graduating high school, he accepted the fact that a sports as a career was not in the cards for him and changed his goals accordingly. Having recently christened himself with the stage name "Lou Costello," he arrived in Hollywood in 1927 with little money and no place to live. There was a modicum of work to be had, which included stints as an extra in such films as the Laurel & Hardy short "The Battle of the Century" (1927), and a job as a stuntman in the gold rush tale "The Trail of the '98" (1928). None of it, however, was enough to make a living, much less make Costello a star. Disappointed and nearly broke, he hitchhiked his way back to Paterson, where along the way he began performing on the vaudeville circuit, eventually settling into a modest routine back in the New Jersey-New York area. It was during this period that Costello married Anne Battler, a burlesque dancer he had met on the circuit. Around the same time, the young comedian crossed paths with veteran vaudeville producer-performer Bud Abbott, and after several onstage collaborations, Abbott and Costello officially became a comedy duo in 1936.

Costello and his new straight man gradually began to make a name for themselves as they performed their act at various burlesque shows, vaudeville theaters and movie house venues. After being signed to the William Morris Agency, Costello and his collaborator gained national exposure when they became featured performers on the popular weekly radio program "The Kate Smith Show" in 1938. The following year - during which time they also appeared in the Broadway revue "The Streets of Paris" - the funnymen were signed by Universal Pictures, allowing Costello to make his West Coast return under greatly improved circumstances. The comedy team of Abbott and Costello made their feature film debut in "One Night in the Topics" (1940). Although cast in supporting roles, the duo virtually stole the show in the lighthearted comedy, giving audiences an abbreviated version of their famous "Who's on First?" bit, a word-play routine already made popular on the Kate Smith radio program. After renegotiating a long-term contract with Universal, Costello and his partner next appeared onscreen as the stars of "Buck Privates" (1941), a boot-camp comedy released prior to America's entry into World War II. The first of three films in which the team would co-star alongside the Andrews Sisters, it not only beat "Citizen Kane" (1941) at the box office, but its famous "drill routine" was later notoriously used by the Japanese as wartime propaganda in an illustration of the "ineptitude" of the average U.S. soldier.

The huge success of "Buck Privates" made movie stars of Costello and Abbott, and the pair wasted no time getting back into the studio for a string of hits, beginning with "In the Navy" (1941), "Hold That Ghost" (1941) and "Pardon My Sarong" (1942). The following year, the hugely popular duo was given a radio show of their own with "The Abbott and Costello Show," which aired for nearly a decade. Amidst his enviable professional success, the portly comedian also experienced more than his share of personal tragedy. In November 1943, after recuperating from a bout of rheumatic fever - a prolonged illness that would have lasting, detrimental effects on his health - Costello was given the horrible news that his infant son, Lou, Jr., had accidentally drowned in the family pool. Having just arrived at the NBC studios to perform his weekly radio program that night, Costello insisted on performing as scheduled, telling producers "Wherever he is tonight, I want him to hear me." The age old showbiz axiom of "the show must go on," never held such stoic integrity. In spite of such heartbreaking events, the streak of hit films continued with fun-loving romps like "It Ain't Hay" (1943), "In Society" (1944) and "Here Come the Co-Eds" (1945). In the best of these films, the boys played good-natured, bumbling schemers who experience changes of heart and/or fortune after being caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

At the top of the box office heap throughout World War II, America could not get enough of Costello and his cohort. They even revived their old "Who's on First?" routine with a lengthier, unabridged version for the film "The Naughty Nineties" (1945). On the flip side of that equation, when they attempted to divert from the established pattern of their previous efforts, as they did in "Little Giant" (1945) and "The Time of Their Lives" (1945), which gave each player more individual storylines and injected a touch of drama into the proceedings, moviegoers where less enthusiastic. In their more appreciated vehicles, the pair cavorted and double-talked their way through enjoyable frolics such as "Buck Privates Come Home" (1947) and "Mexican Hayride" (1948). However, a slight change of trajectory in Costello's career came with the inevitable effects of over-exposure, and a reliance upon an initially winning, but eventually lazy formula struck upon by the studio. At first, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) served as a wacky hybrid vehicle in which Universal could get additional mileage out of its stable of classic movie monsters. And although audiences initially howled at the hilarious antics of Bud and Lou avoiding the clutches of Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bèla Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), the shtick soon grew stale with subsequent retreads, including "Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man" (1951) and "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars" (1953), to name but a few.

That was not to say that Abbott and Costello were no longer popular. Far from it, the pair found a highly receptive audience on television, where, in addition to their films being rerun, they were also given a half-hour comedy program of their own: "The Abbott and Costello Show" (syndicated, 1952-54). Nonetheless, there were other aspiring successors to the comedy team throne - primarily Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis - and by the time they released the last of their big screen efforts, "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" (1955) and "Dance with Me, Henry" (1956), they were as tired of each other as it seemed America had become with their act. Even though their relationship had been badly strained by a bitter disagreement, the two were tearfully reunited on a 1956 segment of "This is Your Life" (NBC, 1952-1961). Shortly thereafter, the team of Abbott and Costello officially called it quits in 1957. Both Costello and his former partner had run afoul with the IRS, forcing him to sell property and certain film rights, as well as take on jobs performing stand-up comedy and reworking old routines - sans Abbott - on TV programs like "The Steve Allen Show" (NBC, 1956-1960). Possibly weakened by his bout of rheumatic fever more than a decade earlier, Lou Costello died of a heart attack on March 3, 1959, mere days before his 53rd birthday. His final movie, and the only one in which he starred without Abbott, "The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock" (1959), was released in August of that year.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)
Artie Pinsetter
Dance with Me, Henry (1956)
Lou Henry
Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)
Willie Piper
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Freddie Franklin [Lou Costello]
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
Tubby
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
Orville
Lost in Alaska (1952)
George Bell
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
Oliver "Puddin' Head" Johnson
Jack and the Beanstalk (1952)
Jack
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
Lou Francis
Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)
Wilbert Smith
Abbott & Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)
Lou Hotchkiss
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff (1949)
Freddie Phillips
Africa Screams (1949)
Stanley Livington
The Noose Hangs High (1948)
Homer
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Wilbur [Grey]
Mexican Hayride (1948)
Joe Bascom [also known as Humphrey Fish]
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
Chester Wooley
Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
Herbie Brown
Little Giant (1946)
Benny Miller
The Time of Their Lives (1946)
Horatio Prim
The Naughty Nineties (1945)
Sebastian Dinwiddie
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood (1945)
Abercrombie
Here Come the Co-Eds (1945)
Oliver [Quackenbush]
Lost in a Harem (1944)
Harvey Garvey
In Society (1944)
Albert [Mansfield]
It Ain't Hay (1943)
Wilbur Hoolihan
Hit the Ice (1943)
Weejie ["Tubby"] McCoy
Rio Rita (1942)
"Wishy" [Dunn]
Who Done It? (1942)
Mervyn Milgrim
Pardon My Sarong (1942)
Wellington Phlug
Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942)
Willoughby
Keep 'Em Flying (1941)
Heathcliff
Hold That Ghost (1941)
Ferdinand [Ferdie] Jones
In the Navy (1941)
Pomeroy Watson
Buck Privates (1941)
Herbie Brown
One Night in the Tropics (1940)
Costello

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other

Life Events

1931

Joined with Bud Abbott in Brooklyn

1938

First radio performance (as Abbott and Costello) on the Kate Smith program

1939

Broadway acting debut in revue, "Streets of Paris", alonside Carmen Miranda

1940

Film debut with Abbott in comic supporting roles, "One Night in the Tropics"

1940

First starring roles for the duo, "Buck Privates", for Universal Studios

1941

Abbott and Costello consistently voted among the top ten box office stars by motion picture exhibitors

1946

Unsuccessfully attempted to work separately within the same film, "The Little Giant"

1948

Flagging popularity revived with "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"; film initiated a series of onscreen encounters with other monsters

1955

Ended association with Universal after "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy"

1956

Their most famous comic routine, "Who's on First?", placed on permanent display at the National Baseball Fall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, NY, in the form of a gold record and a framed copy of the text

1956

Last film with Abbott, "Dance with Me, Henry"

1957

Ended partnership with Bud Abbott

1959

Made one solo film appearance (also his last), "The Thirty Foot Bride of Candy Rock"

Photo Collections

Abbott and Costello in Hollywood - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd - Movie Poster
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd - Movie Poster
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Africa Screams - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Abbott and Costello's Africa Screams (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) - Madame Rontru Bumbling adventurers in Egypt Pete and Freddie (Bud Abbott, Lou Costello) frighten a shopkeeper, meet the alluring Madame Rontru (Marie Windsor) and do a snake charming gag, early in Universal's Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy, 1955.
Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) - Hole In The Rock Big comedy piece as Pete and Freddie (Bud Abbott, Lou Costello) have finally reached the tomb of the evil mummy prince Klaris, accidentally gaining entry, in Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy, 1955.
Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - You Won't Feel A Thing Abbott And Costello are at Universal so there’s no worry about licensing monsters, though only two are originals, here in mayhem toward the end, Dracula (Bela Lugosi) plans to give Lou’s brain to the monster (Glenn Strange, not Karloff) and Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is on their side until the moon comes out, in Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948.
Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - You Little Blimp Just off the phone with the Wolf Man from London, postal clerk Wilbur (Lou Costello) deals with cranky McDougal (Frank Ferguson), amorous Sandra (Lenore Aubert) and snarky pal Chick (Bud Abbott), in Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948.
Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - Dracula's Legend Delivering materials to the local "House Of Horror," Wilbur (Lou Costello) tries to convince Chick (Bud Abbott) he's seen Dracula (Bela Lugosi), in Bud Abbott And Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948.
Buck Privates (1941) - Drafty? Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (as "Slicker" and "Herbie") are introduced, and we find out how they wind up in the army, in this early scene from their mega-hit debut as stars, Buck Privates, 1941.
Buck Privates (1941) - Paying On Account A quick insert, from special material written for the stars by John Grant, Slicker (Bud Abbott) and Herbie (Lou Costello) argue over money at the canteen, in Buck Privates, 1941.
Buck Privates (1941) - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Private Herbie (Lou Costello) needs a moment before his boxing match so "The Andrews Sisters" appear to introduce their smash "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by Don Raye and Hugh Prince, in the first big Abbott & Costello box office hit, Buck Privates, 1941.
Buck Privates (1941) - Get Your Chins Up! Famous scene said to have been tough to film because the director kept cracking up, Slicker (Bud Abbott) and Herbie (Lou Costello) in the Army drill routine from Buck Privates, 1941.
Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) - We Owe It To The Skipper Dressing up with color and musical comedy, the opening to Abbott And Costello's largely self-financed Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd, 1952, Leif Erickson leading the pirate chorus and Charles Laughton spoofing his own role from 1945, the boys found bumbling around Tortuga.
Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953) - Mr. Hyde Will Kill Him! All Boris Karloff, in the title role/s not occupied by the stars, and not a single joke, John Dierkes his assistant, ruminating on the motivations of himself and his alter ego, after committing a murder in turn-of-the-century London, in Abbot And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, 1953.
Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953) - The Fat One Saw Me Bud and Lou are bumbling American cops fired from their professional-exchange gig with the London police force, and nobody will believe Lou, who’s just seen sly Boris Karloff turn from Hyde to Jekyll after a chase at the wax museum, in Abbot And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, 1953.

Trailer

Hold That Ghost (1941) -- Original Trailer Original trailer for the second-made but third-released Abbott & Costello vehicle, Hold That Ghost, 1941, from Universal, with Joan Davis, Richard Carlson, Evelyn Ankers and The Andrews Sisters.
Jack and the Beanstalk - (Black-and-white Trailer) Abbott and Costello dream themselves into the classic children's story Jack and the Beanstalk (1952).
Time Of Their Lives, The - (Original Trailer) Lou Costello is a Revolutionary War ghost trying to clear his name in the unusual Abbott & Costello comedy The Time Of Their Lives (1946).
Abbott and Costello in Hollywood - (Original Trailer) Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are a pair of barbers who try to make it in the movies in Abbott and Costello In Hollywood (1945).
Lost in a Harem - (Original Trailer) Abbott & Costello play entertainers touring the Middle East who are kidnapped by an evil sultan in Lost in a Harem.
Rio Rita (1942) - (Original Trailer) A pair of nitwits try to stop Nazis from infiltrating a Western ranch in Rio Rita (1942), starring Bud Abbott & Lou Costello.
Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy - (Original Trailer) View Trailer
Buck Privates - (Re-issue Trailer) Abbott and Costello accidentally join the U.S. Army in their first starring comedy Buck Privates (1941).
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man - (Original Trailer) Bud and Lou are detectives who take on the case of a hard-to-see boxer in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - (Re-issue Trailer) Universal first married their classic horror with their hottest comedy team in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Family

Pat Costello
Brother
Producer.
Patricia Anne Costello
Daughter
Author. Wrote biography of father.
Carole Lou Costello
Daughter
Died in 1987.
Christine Costello
Daughter
Author. Wrote memoir.

Companions

Ann Costello
Wife
Survived him.

Bibliography

"The Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films"
Jeffrey S. Miller, McFarland (2000)
"Lou's on First"
Chris Costello with Raymond Strait, St. Martin's Press (1981)
"The Abbott and Costello Book"
Jim Mulholland (1975)

Notes

"The great success of Abbott and Costello was attributed by the critics to their old-fashioned knock-about style, combined with a modern toughness of talk. Abbott was the lean and hawk-eyed wise guy, the sharp-shooter who always got the last word; Costello the good-natured dimwit who always got it in the neck--except when the worm occasionally turned. The average viewer never analyzed them--he just laughed." --From his March 4, 1959 The New York Times obituary.

A gold record of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine is displayed at The Baseball Hall of Fame.