In the gay '90s, cardsharps take over a Mississippi riverboat from a kindly captain. Their first act is to change the showboat into a floating gambling house. A ham actor and his bumbling sidekick try to devise a way to help the captain regain ownership of the vessel. Written by
Although Abbott & Costello did not create "Who's On First," they copyrighted it as the "Abbott and Costello Baseball Routine" in 1944. "Who's On First" is generally believed to have been written by John Grant, who created many of Abbott and Costello's famous word-play dialogues, though a similar routine involving towns named "What" and "Which" appears in the 1931 Wheeler and Woolsey film "Cracked Nuts." See more »
The movie is set in the 1890s, but several of the "period" songs played were written in the 1900s. See more »
In many of Abbott and Costello's films, their faces are visible through the "O"'s in their names. In this one, only Costello's face is seen at first; then he silently calls, "Hey, Abb-bott!," and Abbott's face appears. See more »
Abbott and Costello are at their comedic best in their underrated gem, "The Naughty Nineties." It's interesting to note that this could be considered their first film where their characters aren't a team. Abbott plays a ham actor on a show boat, with Costello as a drummer and handyman. It's rumored that A&C began to have a falling out at the time this film was made in early 1945, which may (or may not) have led to playing separate characters. ("Little Giant" and "The Time of Their Lives" are two more examples.)
The film is best known for the classic "Who's on First" routine. While the boys have the routine down pat and perform it almost flawlessly (except when Costello almost forgets the name of Abbott's character), it falls a little flat without audience reaction. Evidently, the director instructed the audience in the show boat not to laugh, which robs A&C of natural audience reactions. The funniest bit in the film is the part where Costello attempts to sing "My Bonnie"; thinking he is being coached by Abbott, he raises and lowers his voice with comedic hilarity -- one of the funniest segments in the entire A&C series of films.
Ably supported by a decent cast, "The Naughty Nineties" comes in at a snappy 76 minutes of fun and laughter. One of their best from their mid-40s period. 8 out of 10.
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