Birthdate: October 2nd, 1897
Location: Reading, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: April 24th, 1974
Location: Woodland Hills, California, USA
Cause of death: Prostate cancer
For Bud Abbott's comedy partner Lou Costello, click here.
Best known for: Comedy actor most famous for playing the "straight man" to Lou Costello in the Abbott and Costello comedy partnership of the 1940s and 50s. He enjoyed joint success with Costello in a string of branded comedies, such as Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955).
Abbott and Costello first worked together in 1935, and formally teamed up the following year to perform in burlesque, vaudeville, minstrel and stage shows. By 1938 they were gaining fans across America as part of the Kate Smith Radio Hour, and in 1940 they secured their first Hollywood film roles in One Night in the Tropics - they were actually minor characters but they stole the show with their comedy song and dance routines. After that, they never looked back...
|Bud, 48, with Lou Costello in 1945's|
Abbott and Costello in Hollywood
It essentially came down to money. In their early days the boys split their earnings 60/40 in Bud's favour, as the straight man was deemed the more valuable of the two. This was subsequently changed to 50/50, but after the success of 1941's film Buck Privates, Costello insisted upon a 60/40 split in his favour, which stuck for the rest of their career together. This drove an awkward wedge between them which was never truly resolved, and was made worse when Costello tried to insist that the duo were renamed Costello and Abbott (this never came to pass).
|Bud aged 59 in Dance With|
The duo were harassed by tax collectors and were forced to sell most of their assets to settle up with the IRS. In 1959, the IRS demanded Bud pay more than $750,000 in taxes, forcing him to sell his home in Encino, California (at a loss) and his 200-acre ranch. His wife Betty sold her jewellery and furs and he relinquished all future profits from his Universal film contract. Bud was forced to beg for donations from Abbott and Costello fans, to small reward.
|Aged 62 in The Joke's|
Well, he didn't waste any time getting back on the horse, and in 1960 formed a new comedy partnership with musician and voice artist Candy Candido (he later went on to give voice to Gentle Ben in the TV series). The partnership was moderately well received while on tour across the US, but Bud was plagued with ill-health, suffering an epileptic seizure on his way to one of their gigs. Bud soon called it quits, claiming "no one could ever live up to Lou".
|Bud, aged 65, interviewed for|
Since he was aged 29, Bud had suffered from epilepsy, something he attempted to control by drinking rather too much alcohol at times. In 1964, aged 67, he suffered a series of strokes, and by 1970 was living off a $180-per-month social security benefit. Betty worked part-time and he was supported by his children, Victoria and Bud Jr. Bud suffered more strokes that same year.
|Bud with walking stick|
in the last days of being
able to walk
Following the article, the Abbotts were bombarded with letters and cards from well-wishers - sometimes including money - and in September 1972, Bud's wife Betty reported back: "We couldn't possibly answer all the letters, but I want to thank everybody. Please tell them that Bud is not alone. The doctors never tell me anything except that he's very sick. If he could only live. I say my prayers for my husband every night, but I want to keep him with me for as long as I can."
|A bed-ridden Bud at the age of 75,|
surrounded by the fan mail he received
following the National Enquirer article
Trivia: Bud was an avid gun collector and once owned one of Adolf Hitler's shotguns as well as some of TV cowboy Tom Mix's pearl-handled pistols.
A bit of fun: Why not relive Abbott and Costello's classic Who's On First? comedy routine...