They were arguably the greatest comedy duo of all time.

William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello and certainly “saved” Universal Pictures in the 1940s by making a series of low budget/high grossing films which captured all their classic routines. Remember “Who’s on First?”?

Last week we happened upon a DVD release of four of their films. (It’s part of a set with four films on each disc.) This disc contained 1945’s Here Come The Co-eds, and we recalled that our old friend, Patricia Williamson, had a bit in that movie. So, naturally, we just had to rent it.

The disc also included 1943’s Hit the Ice, 1944’s In Society, and 1945’s The Naughty Nineties, so we watched those too.

We, like most people our age think of Abbott and Costello from the films we saw in the 50s, or their TV program of the same era. But these earlier films are quite different.  First of all the production values are better, the scripts are better and although they rely on the duo’s classic routines, they also have better supporting casts.

Most importantly Lou Costello is YOUNGER in these films and therefore his little boy antics play better. Just like Jerry Lewis — who inherited Costello’s mantle when Dean Martin and Lewis replaced Abbott and Costello as the top comedy team — Costello needed youth to carry off his character.

So if you’re not a fan of Abbott and Costello now, we urge you to see these early films to learn what all the fuss was about.  They are truly entertaining.  And you’ll also discover some other talented people of the 40s.

In Society co-stars vocalist Marion Hutton.  No not Betty Hutton, but her older sister Marion. She looks much like Betty and even her expressions are similar. This sister was also a big band singer, having performed with Glenn Miller and Vincent Lopez.

Her film career never took off although she can be seen in Orchestra Wives and Love Happy.

Anyway, enjoy Abbott and Costello at their very best, via their earlier movies.  And be prepared to laugh a lot.

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