Bud and Lou (TV Movie 1978) Poster

(1978 TV Movie)

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If you know anything at all about Bud and Lou, this movie is infuriating
frankfob7 January 2002
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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A dramatization of the on-and-offstage successes, and problems, of the immortal comic duo.
Lou Rugani24 June 2000
I saw 'Bud and Lou' the night of its initial prime-time television release. It is certainly a loving look at these two legendary comics and takes the expected look at their showbiz origins and their close family lives. I was struck by the apparent desire to feature 'name' late-'70s stars in the title roles (most likely to assure better ratings, I'd guess), and the film's major flaw is that we are constantly distracted by the almost-competing performances of the two other very talented clowns, Harvey Korman and Buddy Hackett, who are sadly miscast in the title roles.

The stretch of imagination is too much to make, and try though I might, I kept seeing Korman and Hackett, whose resemblances to A&C, both physical and in mannerism, were nonexistent. (Better they had starred K&H in an original story, and left the A&C biopic to be done right, as was the masterful 'The Three Stooges' of 2000.) But to their professional credit, K&H soldier on in the roles.

The conclusion is unnecessarily downbeat, and doesn't correllate with our memories of those two great men, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the legendary partners in comedy who entertained millions and dedicated so much of their personal resources and private efforts to charitable causes and the public good, not the least of which were the War Bond drives.

Though it's not a successful portrait of the team, I believe all concerned did do what they could with the material, and at times the film does have its moments. See it and satisfy your curiosity.
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Great story but terrible portrayals.
david-3404 July 2000
The movie was obviously lovingly done, and the story line superb. When Hackett and Korman are acting "out of character", that is, living Bud and Lou's private lives, the story holds together well. But when they are trying to recreate Abbot and Costello's great routines, things fall apart, particularly a very poorly timed version of "Who's On First". The recent t.v. pic of the Three Stooges stands head and shoulders above this show.
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Bud and Lou (1978) *1/2
JoeKarlosi25 November 2010
Recently my friend and I had been talking about this pretty awful 1978 telemovie about Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. We hadn't seen it in many years but have always recalled how embarrassingly bad it had been and were dying to see it again, mainly for unintentional laughs at the poor quality of it. Well, a few days ago we managed to find an old VHS tape at a still-functional old time video store, and we rented it and went to my place to watch it. It was worse than we remembered, but it did give us some howls due to its incompetence.

First off, the casting is just horrendous. Stand-up comedian Buddy Hackett plays the short, roly-poly Costello, and Harvey Korman plays the slender straight man, Bud Abbott. I have always enjoyed Korman in many things (especially on The Carol Burnett Show), and when Hackett was in his element he could be quite humorous (especially in IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD). But little Buddy makes a lousy Costello, and it's obvious he was not much of an actor as he desperately attempts to do classic routines of Lou's, and especially a pathetically off-timed "Who's On First?", with Hackett's garbled marbles-in-his-mouth voice. It's vomitable watching Buddy staring off to the side and reciting this gag as though he is reading from scripted cue cards; just putrid. And Korman is no better.

This movie was based on a book by Bob Thomas, supposedly heavily influenced by the memories of A&C's longtime manager, Eddie Sherman (in the film, Eddie is played by Arte Johnson). One of the biggest objections about this movie is that Sherman was at one time fired and later re-hired, and therefore it is said that he had an axe to grind. As a result of personal animosity, it is so claimed, the portrayal of Hackett's Lou Costello here as a nasty, arrogant, sadistic control freak is supposedly way out of line. Indeed, in this film Costello is made out to be quite a monster. But I have to tell you that while it may be somewhat exaggerated, I am of the opinion that the real-life Lou could sometimes be that bad. I base my opinion on the memories of people who worked with him, and especially the directors. Many filmmakers said that Costello could be a little terror, and that he and Abbott would be deliberately difficult on the movie sets. That they gambled all the time, threw their weight around a lot, made unreasonable demands, and that Costello was known to actually steal props from the films they were currently in the middle of working on.

But back to this movie. It's boring. It leaves out many details such as the fact that Lou had daughters, not just the one baby boy who tragically drowned just before his first birthday. Also, the fact that Abbott had a family. Korman and Hackett have zero chemistry together and don't do their roles justice. The way the events zip along you would think that the duo's career only lasted a few years; there is no sense of the passage of decades. And there is no time spent with them on their many movies.

In the end, my friend and I had a tremendous and hearty laugh at how ineptly the death of Lou Costello is played here. I won't ruin it for you, but we frequently mimic this "death scene" for endless kicks. Not because the passing of a great comic is truly funny; I'm talking about the overly-dramatic and probably exaggerated execution of the moment. Just unintentionally hilarious. It is the incompetence of this badly made film that keeps me from rating this a complete ZERO. It entertains ever so slightly because it is so bad. *1/2 out of ****
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A terrible recounting of one of the greatest comedy teams of all time. Bad Casting 101 is in full effect
gleetroy18 April 2007
I first saw this as it was originally presented on TV in 1978. I have not seen it since because I hated it then. Lou Costello, one of the funniest comedians (although underrated) of all time and Bud Abbott, the greatest straight man ever are woefully misrepresented here. According to this, Costello was a monster and Abbott a weak man who knew nothing about anything, even comedy (The way "Who's On Forst?" is done makes it sound like an educational commercial for Mapquest instead of a comedy routine). While it's true that Costello had more push and was the business head of the duo, he was also a man of many sides, including a love for children, that this biopic prefers to erase. Buddy Hackett and Harvey Korman (both funny men in their own right)play the roles of two very interesting men as one-dimensional boobs who couldn't handle any aspect of show business. It's amazing that Buddy Hackett and Harvey Korman, who are comedy pros could come off so antiseptic and lifeless. It's as if they have no feel for comedy. As a matter of fact, Hackett derided the movie as terrible and he was embarrassed by what it represented for Lou Costello. When Lou's daughter wrote a book called "Lou's on First", Hackett wrote a foreword for the book essentially putting down the entire film as a colossal waste and terribly misleading.Instead of watching this film, read the many books of Abbott and Costello. You'll get a much better and more entertaining view of the two men that way!
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More Costello than Abbott
paris_whitney_hilton_nyc2 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Somebody gave me an old VHS tape of this movie that was recorded off a late night TV show . I never cared for most made for TV movies anyway but Bud and Lou kept my interest until the end . I must agree with most of the negative reviewer's comments I read here . Costello comes off looking like a mean-spirited buffoon very early on in the movie when he tells Abbott " Don't ever call me little again " .

There is no sense in me rehashing what some of the other reviewer's wrote about the plot . I didn't find Korman or Hackett that awful to play the leading roles as this was after all just a 1978 Made for TV movie . What I didn't like about this film was it leaves you with more questions than answers .

Buddy Hackett and Michelle Lee paired together truly look like the Odd Couple . There is no mention of how they met . Bud Abbott ( Harvey Korman ) and Anne Costello ( Michelle Lee ) share many scenes together from beginning to end . Although the movie suggests their relationship was merely platonic , I was lead to believe otherwise . Abbott appears to be a dapper, well dressed ladies man yet he is never seen in the company of any other woman except Anne Costello . I couldn't decide whether Abbott was gay or having an affair with Anne ? There is no mention of Abbott's two wives that were former burlesque dancers from what I understand . Nor is there any mention Costello had three daughters that were born after Lou Jr tragically drowned. Bud Abbott had a few kids that were also omitted along with his two wives . There isn't any mention of the TV series that ran for two years in the early 50's . We see Costello's 1955 Ford Thunderbird being auctioned off along with his home and all his other belongings to pay the IRS for back taxes . I imagine that all happened in the late 1950's although no exact year is ever given . Anne Costello becomes an alcoholic . Her early death at the age of 48 is never mentioned which happened not long after her husband Lou died . No mention is made as to what eventually became of Bud Abbott who lived somewhat longer than Costello . TV movies in general are boring . I didn't expect too much from this film, however I wish they would have given the viewer more facts than filler . .... Luke Warm !
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The Comedians Who Saved Universal
theowinthrop31 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's amazing to me that this film got such rough going-over by so many of the critics on the thread. While BUD AND LOU was not one of the classic films of all time, it was far better than its critics here make it out to be, including the unexpectedly good casting of Buddy Hackett and Harvey Korman as Lou Costello and Bud Abbott. Both comedians rarely got a chance to show their dramatic flair. Momentary flair ups in television or movie roles were the closest, such as an episode of THE NUTT HOUSE that Korman was in (which I just wrote about) or an appearance by Hackett on a western (I think it was THE BIG VALLEY) years ago. The latter is odd in another way: Costello did a dramatic turn on WAGON TRAIN which was also unexpected, and quite good too.

Some comic teams fell together by sheer accident, the most notable being Laurel & Hardy, wherein the glue was Hal Roach. Others are born together or near each other (the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges - except for Larry). Some marry together (Burns & Allan). Lou Costello and Bud Abbott fell into each other's paths in the course of the old vaudeville and burlesque theater circuits. Both were from New Jersey (Lou...as he never stopped mentioning...from Patterson, N.J.*; Bud from Asbury Park), and both honed their person-as on stage until they met and found each other was the perfect fit as a partner. Bud was always the street smarter wise guy who knew how to fast talk his associate into the losing position, while Lou was the dumpy, seemingly stupider or the two. Actually if you watch Lou, his so-called stupidity is basically a questioning of what is going on around him: Lou is a comic everyman type. It worked and together they climbed up in show business. Proof of this is an old newsreel of them with one of their friends and fans: Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City. He's kidding with them, and ends up hitting Lou. LaGuardia was known for (among other things) driving burlesque theaters out of New York, but he always enjoyed clowning with Bud and Lou. That just shows how they transcended their background.

*Patterson, New Jerseyans has never forgotten his boosting their town: Lou has a statue there.

But there were forces between them that, while not unique, eventually ruined the teamwork. Fortunately it was not for many years. Costello was the creative force - the "Stan Laurel", if you will, of the team. At first this does not matter, as Bud was a straight man, but as their films continue Lou emphasized his role in the humor to the point that Abbott is rarely given much to do. In a film like ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF, there are large sections of the film where Bud vanishes, and the villain is pursuing Lou. In fact, the film is one of the few where Lou momentarily turns the table on Bud, suggesting to an increasingly receptive crowd of people that Bud is the killer (Abbott looks really panicky in this moment, though it is actually a ruse by Costello to smoke out the real killer). Bud Abbott probably did not appreciate this treatment. The later films shows the strains on their relationship. But to be fair other comic partners had strains. Paul McCullough is believed to have committed suicide due to mistreatment by Bobby Clark. Joe Weber and Lew Fields eventually split their act for several decades, until Hollywood reunited them a few times.

This film (based on a book by their manager Eddie Collins (Arte Johnson)) describes how the team made it as a national phenomenon, particularly after they played their best remembered routine, "Who's On First" on national radio. Actually Korman and Hackett were not abysmal in performing that mental twisting skit. No they are not the real Abbott and Costello, but they don't have to be the real ones. The real ones performed it flawlessly again and again throughout their careers, while Korman and Hackett only had to do it for this one film. Similarly they had only to do the "Captain Jonah and the Whale" story joke only once. They had to do it in the context of the movie.

The tragedy of Costello's infant son's tragic drowning is shown, and how it adds to the tensions in the partnership. So is Abbott's epilepsy (I remember one scene where Korman is in a dressing room and feels a seizure coming and uses a pencil to prevent himself from swallowing his tongue). Tax problems caught up with both men (somewhat unfairly - the IRS apparently targeted them, despite their having worked selling bonds during the war years). Universal Studios, growing tired with the bullying behavior of Lou, dumped them when they were in need of help with the IRS (leading to Johnson's best moment in the film - telling off the owners of the studio that if it wasn't for Bud and Lou there wouldn't be a Universal Studio). Abbott's growing alcoholism leads to a fiasco in Las Vegas that ends the partnership. And soon after Costello dies of a heart attack. The film, by the way, shows the end correctly: Lou having a milk shake in his hospital bed (thanks to Eddie) and remarking it was the best he ever had, just before dying.

It was a well acted film, only missing out on one ironic last point about Lou. He was going to play Mayor LaGuardia in the new musical FIORELLO when he died. Had he done so, his career would have zoomed off again.
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Re: FrankFob's inane comment
YariFilmGroup10 April 2008
regarding FrankFob's "review", specifically: "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." Ah, the "experts" of the Internet. Sherman was fired in 1948 - and rehired in 1949. There was absolutely no "axe to grind" - Sherman was great friends with and continued to manage the pair, Bud even past Lou's death.

"Obviously had a major ax to grind..." Honestly. Stick to the negative review, without adding your erroneous $.02.
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A Totally Unworthy Biopic of a Legendary Comedy Team
m2mallory29 September 2011
"Bud and Lou" was made at a time when Hollywood was turning out quite a few biopics of Golden Age personalities, both for theatrical release and television, but this one has to rank as one of the worst. It offers a not-terribly accurate overview of the lives of the comics and their partnership, but renders the characters in blacks and whites. In short, Bud Abbott (played with no distinction by Harvey Korman) is depicted as a meek, go-along guy, and Lou Costello (very poorly played by Buddy Hackett) comes off as a mentally-impaired bully. Meanwhile their business manager, Eddie Sherman (played fairly well by Arte Johnson)is depicted as the sympathetic anchor in their lives. While this is a revisionist take on things, it is not unexpected, since Sherman was a major source for the book upon which the movie is based, Bob Thomas's eponymous "Bud and Lou" (and neither the book nor the movie explains why, if Sherman was looking out for their affairs so well, they both got into such trouble with the IRS). The film covers a good twenty years, yet no one ages or changes in any way; whereas the real Bud Abbott aged and changed greatly from their first film to their last, here he looks exactly the same in every scene. What really sinks it, though, even more so than the character and event inaccuracies, are the painfully unfunny recreations of A&C routines by K&H. Whereas the real guys could do bits like "Who's on First" in their sleep, with unerring timing and delivery, Korman and Hackett sound like they're cold reading the bits for the first time, with no sense of timing, meaning, energy, or performing chemistry. In particular, Hackett's vacant, gaping stare and unbelieving line delivery during these classic routines looks more like Lennie asking George about the rabbits than Costello asking Abbott about the first baseman. Some Hollywood figures were so distinctive that anyone attempting to portray them is automatically at a disadvantage. "Bud and Lou" proves that in spades.
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