Sunday, May 31, 2015

Examining the Origins of Abbott and Costello's Burlesque Routines: Prologue

I am proud to declare the week of May 31, 2015, to be Abbott and Costello Week on Anthony Balducci's Journal.  This is the first of seven daily articles that will look into the background of the team's most popular routines.  I think it's seven articles.  I used addition, multiplication and division to figure this out.

I came across a few interesting news items as I researched this series of articles.  In June, 1938, M-G-M executives had Abbott and Costello in consideration for roles in a musical comedy, Honolulu, and went as far as bringing the team to the studio for a screen test. As it turned out, the roles went to Burns and Allen.  Instead of being Abbott and Costello's first film appearance, it became Burns and Allen's last film appearance.  Other studios expressed interest in the team.  Motion Picture Daily published the following notice on December 14, 1938: "Abbott and Costello, of the Kate Smith program, are being considered for a picture berth by Warners."  We can only guess how Abbott and Costello would have fared if they had signed with M-G-M or Warners instead of Universal.

Abbott and Costello appeared throughout the summer of 1938 at the Steel Pier's Music Hall in Atlantic City.  Variety provided continuous coverage of the popular engagement with reviews and notices.  A review dated August 24 noted, "Abbott and Costello again borrow a burley standard."  The team was known from the start for specializing in burlesque standards.  Another review the following week stated, "Abbott and Costello grab off a few laughs with a magic skit."  This is more intriguing information.  A magic skit is not among the team's well-known business.  At first, I had no idea what the skit could be.  But, then, I remembered a sketch that the pair performed many years later on the Colgate Comedy Hour.

An early review in the Radio Mirror likened Abbott and Costello to a bickering comedy team named Tom Howard and George Shelton.  Let's see Howard and Shelton in action.

Here is a photo that shows Howard and Shelton literally at each other's throat.

Welcome to this celebration of Abbott and Costello.  I hope that you enjoy it.

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