Birthdate: March 6th, 1906
Location: Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Died: March 3rd, 1959
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack
For Lou Costello's comedy partner Bud Abbott, click here.
Best known for: Comedy actor most famous for playing the gag man to Bud Abbott in the Abbott and Costello comedy partnership of the 1940s and 50s. He enjoyed joint success with Abbott 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 Abbott'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, Lou 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 Lou tried to insist that the duo were renamed Costello and Abbott (this never came to pass).
|Lou with Lou Jr,|
who drowned in
pool just before
his first birthday
After the death of his son, Lou's friend Maxene Andrews said his character changed: "He didn't seem as fun-loving and as warm. He seemed to anger easily. There was a difference in his attitude."
In 1954 the duo had to pull out of recording the film Fireman Save My Child due to Lou's continuing heart issues due to rheumatic fever. They were replaced in the finished film by lookalikes Hugh O'Brian and Buddy Hackett, although Bud and Lou can be spotted in some long shots.
|Lou on The Steve Allen Show|
in December, 1957, aged 51
Both Lou and Bud were harassed by tax collectors and were forced to sell most of their assets to settle up with the IRS in 1956, including their homes and their rights to the Universal films. Now he was a solo artiste, Lou went back on the road touring the comedy circuit as a one-man show, including stints in Las Vegas. He made several appearances in 1957 and 1958 on the Steve Allen Show, recreating old Abbott and Costello routines with either Louis Nye or Tom Poston as straight man. His final appearance on that show was January 19th, 1959, but he also made an appearance on The Lux Show on May 29th, 1958 with Rosemary Clooney, and The Ed Sullivan Show with the cast of the Suzie Wong Show on November 16th, 1958.
|Lou in Blaze of Glory|
in 1958, aged 52
The following month, on October 22nd, Lou made a guest appearance in the Western series Wagon Train, in an episode called The Tobias Jones Story. Lou plays alcoholic Tobias who gets himself accused of murder.
Lou's final acting work was recorded between December 3rd-22nd, 1958 for the movie The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. In it he played inventor Artie Pinsetter, whose fiancee Emmy Lou (played by Dorothy Provine) is exposed to radiation and grows to become 30ft tall. The film's tagline was "Thirty Feet of Smouldering Passion - and She's Mine, All Mine!" Clips of this film can be seen in Neil Finn's parody music video for the song She Will Have Her Way (1998). The film was released on August 5th, 1959, a posthumous last hurrah for Lou's career.
|Lou in The 30 Foot Bride of|
Candy Rock, aged 52
According to a contemporary report in the LA Times, Lou's manager Eddie Sherman said: "He said he wanted to turn over on his side. He said 'I think I'll be more comfortable'. Before I could reach him he slumped back on his pillow and was gone." There are false claims that he died surrounded by family and friends and his last words were actually: "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted". The truth is that at 3pm Lou sent his wife Anne home to cook tea for their daughter Christine, but just 55 minutes later, Lou died, surrounded by private nurses.
|Lou's open casket in March 1959|
Lou's body was taken to Steen's mortuary in North Hollywood where rosary was recited on March 6th at 8pm. A requiem mass was held on March 7th at St Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks and he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. Just nine months later, on December 5th, 1959, Lou's widow Anne died of a heart attack, aged just 47. Lou and Anne's daughter Carole also sadly died prematurely of a stroke in March 1987, aged 49.
A bit of fun: Before Lou became a comedian, he was a successful amateur boxer going by the name Lou King in the 1920s. He won 32 straight fights before being knocked out, effectively ending his boxing career. Here he can be seen interviewing boxer Max Baer following his win over Tony Galento in July 1940, with muted support from Joe Louis!