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Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Recently speaking with Vickie Abbott-Wheeler, daughter of Bud Abbott, put me in the mood for some Abbott and Costello.

Last night I popped in their 1944 comedy "In Society." Lou Costello was doing the "Susquehana Hat Company" bit, which is a lot like the old "Niagra Falls" bit: (1) Lou needs to deliver straw hats to the Susquehana Hat Company; (2) He asks passersby for directions; (3) They go ballistic at the mere mention of the company; (4) They beat up Lou and punch out the hats.

It was a small thrill to spot what I feel certain was a young Hope Summers as one of the hat-punchers. Hope is best known as Clara, gossipy best friend of Frances Bavier's Aunt Bee on "The Andy Griffith Show." Hope also played an icy devil-cult member (alongside fellow movie vet Patsy Kelly) in "Rosemary's Baby," which gets my vote for Scariest Movie Ever Made. "In Society" isn't on Hope's imdb filmography, but I'd bet anything that was her.

For movie buffs, spotting and naming supporting and bit players is a game that never grows old.

"In Society" also had Thurston Hall as a millionaire whose butler (unwisely) hires plumbers Bud and Lou. Thurston specialized in big, blustery, older gentlemen. For me, the definitive Thurston Hall performance was as back-slapping Senator Babcock in "Sherlock Holmes in Washington." The senator wore a white suit, announced his title to anyone within earshot at the top of his lungs and treated strangers like potential voters.

"In Society" also had future Merv Griffin sidekick -- and future fast-food icon -- Arthur Treacher as (what else?) a butler, and a singing trio called The Three Sisters, who seemed like bargain-basement Andrews Sisters.

Like I said, we movie buffs are always scanning the crowd scenes for old friends.


Blogger Dave said...

The only way I'm going to break down and buy any Abbott & Costello DVD's is if the estate of Damon Runyon gets off its butt and authorizes an official release of "It Ain't Hay".

Very happy to see you blogging, Mark. Good luck with it.

7:28 AM, April 05, 2006  

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