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If you know anything at all about Bud and Lou, this movie is infuriating
I read the book on which this film is based--"Bud and Lou", by Bob Thomas--when it first came out, and it didn't impress me much. It turned out that Thomas had relied for a lot of his information on Eddie Sherman, Abbott & Costello's longtime manager who had been fired by the duo and obviously had a major ax to grind. That was to be expected, and it's even understandable, but this movie is, if anything, even more one-sided than the book. Its main goal seemed to be to paint the two comics, especially Costello, in as bad a light as possible. Now Lou Costello was no saint; he was known to have a short fuse, he and Abbott fought bitterly on occasion and even went for months at a time without speaking to each other off the set, he gave many of his directors a lot of trouble and he had a habit of "appropriating" furniture and props that he particularly liked from the sets of his pictures. However, if you believe this movie, he was venal, nasty, stubborn, vengeful, temperamental and offensive 24/7. The script bears little resemblance to the real lives of the two comedians (Costello's daughter in particular was so incensed by this movie that she wrote her own book to refute it and the book it was based on); however, even if it was 100% accurate and Costello actually was the ogre the movie paints him to be, the horrendous miscasting of Buddy Hackett and Harvey Korman destroys whatever possibilities the movie might have had. Hackett bears somewhat of a resemblance to Costello, although he's taller and heavier, and Korman is about the right size and build as Abbott, but that's it. Costello was born and raised in northern New Jersey, as was Abbott, and both had the sharp, rapid-fire speech patterns and New York-ish accent typical of that area, though Costello's was more pronounced than Abbott's. Hackett sounds like a Borscht-belt Catskills comic, which is what he is, and Korman sounds like a classically trained stage actor, which is what he is, and neither of them even tries to come close to the way Bud and Lou spoke--Abbott's mile-a-minute carnival barker spiel, Costello's excitable sputtering as he gets more and more confused--which was central to the astonishing verbal byplay between the two and which, although they made it look easy, was actually quite complex, especially in the "Who's On First" routine. In addition, and even more damaging, is the fact that Korman and Hackett have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever, which is painfully obvious by their atrocious rendering of "Who's On First"; it's so embarrassingly, maddeningly inept--Hackett, for reasons known only to himself, speaks even more slowly here than he does in the rest of the movie, when the whole POINT of the routine was Costello getting more and more overwhelmed as the pace got faster and faster--that it should have been completely cut out.
The film plays fast and loose with the facts--many bios do, but this one does more than most--and the performances by the other actors are nothing special. Arte Johnson plays Eddie Sherman, but makes no particular impression. Michelle Lee, tall, slender, gorgeous and WASPish, plays Costello's wife Anne, who in reality was short, stocky, swarthy, and in fact looked more like Lou Costello than she did Michelle Lee, and Hackett doesn't connect with her, either. The film makes some curious omissions; it doesn't mention, for example, that both Abbott's and Costello's wives were burlesque dancers, which is where they all met. While a case may possibly be made for leaving that out, less understandable is the fact that, although the film covers the team's career in radio and movies, for some unfathomable reason it completely ignores the fact that they had a hugely successful television series for several years (which is still being shown in reruns today).
To sum it all up, if the one-sidedness, inaccuracies and omissions weren't enough to sink this movie, the almost criminal miscasting of the two leads is. This is a stinker of virtually biblical proportions. Avoid it.
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