Bud Abbott

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Bud Abbott
BornWilliam Alexander Abbott
October 2, 1897[1]
Asbury Park, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 1974(1974-04-24) (aged 78)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, comedian, producer
Years active1924–67
Spouse(s)Betty Smith (m. 1918–74)
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Bud Abbott
BornWilliam Alexander Abbott
October 2, 1897[1]
Asbury Park, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 1974(1974-04-24) (aged 78)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, comedian, producer
Years active1924–67
Spouse(s)Betty Smith (m. 1918–74)

William Alexander "Bud" Abbott (October 2, 1897 – April 24, 1974) was an American actor, producer and comedian.[2] He is best remembered as the straight man of the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, with Lou Costello.

Early life[edit]

Abbott was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, into a show business family. His parents, Rae (Fisher) and Harry Abbott, worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus.[3][4] Abbott dropped out of school as a child and began working for his father in Coney Island. His father, then an employee of the Columbia Burlesque Wheel, installed him in the box office of the Casino Theater in Brooklyn. Eventually, Abbott began arranging burlesque show tours. However at the age of 15, Abbott was drugged and shanghaied onto a ship bound for Norway, he was eventually able to work his way back to the United States, and on his return moved to Detroit.[3][citation needed]

There in 1918, he met and fell in love with Jenny Mae Pratt, a burlesque dancer and comedienne who performed as Betty Smith, they were to remain together until Abbott's death 55 years later. After they were married in 1918 Abbott and his new wife soon began producing a vaudeville "tab show" called Broadway Flashes, which toured on the Gus Sun Vaudeville Circuit.[5] Around 1924, Abbott began performing as a straight man in a comedy act with Betty. Bud Abbott served as the treasurer and later manager of National Theater throughout the 1920s. As his reputation grew, Abbott began working with veteran comedians like Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson.[6]


Lou Costello and Hollywood[edit]

Abbott crossed paths with Lou Costello in burlesque in the early 1930s. Abbott was producing and performing in Minsky's Burlesque shows, while Costello was a rising comic. They formally teamed up in 1936, due to an illness to Costello's regular partner,[7] and performed together in burlesque, vaudeville, minstrel shows, and cinemas.

In 1938, they first received national exposure by performing on the Kate Smith Hour radio show, which led to their appearance in a Broadway musical, The Streets of Paris. In 1940, Universal signed Abbott and Costello for their first film, One Night in the Tropics. Despite having minor supporting roles, Abbott and Costello stole the film with their classic routines, including an abbreviated version of "Who's On First?"[citation needed]

Abbott on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1951

During World War II, Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world.[citation needed] Between 1940 and 1956 they made 36 films, and earned a percentage of the profits on each.[citation needed] They were popular on radio throughout the 1940s, primarily on their own program which ran from 1942 until 1947 on NBC and from 1947 to 1949 on ABC. In the 1950s, they introduced their comedy to live television on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and launched their own half-hour series, The Abbott and Costello Show.

Abbott proved to be very supportive of his relatives. Norman and Betty Abbott, the children of Bud Abbott's twin sister Olive, embarked on show business careers with help from their uncle. (Betty was responsible for continuity on Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Norm directed live television).[citation needed]After Olive's husband abandoned his family (on the pretense of going out for a pack of cigarettes), Abbott stepped in as breadwinner. He changed their surname to Abbott and raised them as his own children[citation needed]. He and his wife also adopted two more children.[citation needed]

Strain and split[edit]

Relations between Abbott and Costello had been strained for years. In their early burlesque days, their contracted salaries were split 60%–40%, favoring Abbott, because the straight man was always viewed as the more valuable member of the team.[citation needed] That was changed to 50%–50% after they became burlesque stars.

However, other accounts indicate that the 60%–40% split was Costello's idea.[citation needed] The statement, "A good straight man is hard to find" is attributed to Costello.[citation needed] On the other hand, it was perceived that the sixty–forty split had long irked Costello.[citation needed] Once Buck Privates made them bona fide movie stars, Costello insisted that the 60%–40% split be reversed in his favor, and it remained so for the remainder of their careers. Costello's additional demand that the team be renamed "Costello and Abbott" was rejected by Universal Studios, resulting in a "permanent chill" between the two partners, according to Lou's daughter Chris Costello in her biography Lou's on First.[citation needed] Their relationship was further strained by Abbott's alcohol abuse, a habit motivated by his desire to combat the effects of epilepsy.[citation needed]

The team's popularity waned in the 1950s, and they were further bedeviled by tax issues; the IRS demanded heavy back taxes, forcing the partners (both of whom had been serious gamblers) to sell most of their assets (including Costello's rights to their television show). They were forced to withdraw from Fireman Save My Child in 1954 due to Costello's health and were replaced by lookalikes Hugh O'Brian and Buddy Hackett, and were dropped by Universal the following year. Abbott and Costello formally dissolved their business relationship in July 1957. Lou Costello died on March 3, 1959.

Later years[edit]

In 1960, Abbott began performing with a new partner, Candy Candido to good reviews. But Abbott called it quits, remarking that "No one could ever live up to Lou." The following year, Abbott performed in a dramatic television episode of General Electric Theater titled "The Joke's On Me". A few years later, Abbott provided his own voice for the Hanna-Barbera animated series The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show, with Stan Irwin providing the voice of Lou Costello.

Personal life[edit]

Abbott's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work on television.

Bud and Betty Abbott were married for 55 years. The couple adopted two children: Bud Jr. in 1942 and Vickie in 1949. Bud Jr. died on January 19, 1997 at the age of 57.

Abbott was an active Freemason and Shriner.[8][9][10] Bud Abbott has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: the radio star is located on 6333 Hollywood Boulevard, the motion pictures star is located on 1611 Vine Street, and the TV star is located on 6740 Hollywood Boulevard.


Abbott suffered from epilepsy throughout his life.[citation needed] In the early 1960s, he suffered the first in a series of strokes.[citation needed] In 1972, he broke his hip.[citation needed] Abbott died of cancer at the age of 78 on April 24, 1974, at his home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.[11] His wife Betty died on September 12, 1981 at the age of 79.

When Groucho Marx was asked about Abbott shortly after his death, his response was that Abbott was "the greatest straight man ever."[12]

Honors and awards[edit]

There is a common misconception that Abbott and Costello are the only two non-baseball players to have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.[citation needed] In actuality, the comedic duo does not hold membership with the Cooperstown society[13] any more than the sports writers and broadcasters who are acknowledged by separate awards. However, an honoring plaque and a gold record and transcript of the "Who's On First?" sketch has been included in the museum collection since 1956, and the routine runs on an endless loop on televisions at the Hall, making Abbott and Costello among the few non-baseball players or managers to have a memorial in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Abbott received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting (posthumously) from the Garden State Film Festival in 2006; it was accepted on his behalf by his daughter Vickie Abbott Wheeler.[citation needed]

Abbott is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.[14]


1940One Night in the TropicsAbbottFilm Debut
1941Buck PrivatesSlicker SmithFirst Comedy[7]
In the NavySmoky Adams
Hold That GhostChuck Murray
Keep 'Em FlyingBlackie Benson
1942Ride 'Em CowboyDuke
Rio RitaDoc
Pardon My SarongAlgy Shaw
Who Done It?Chick Larkin
1943It Ain't HayGrover Mickridge
Hit The IceFlash Fulton
1944In SocietyEddie Harrington
Lost in a HaremPeter Johnson
1945Here Come The Co-EdsSlats McCarthy
The Naughty NinetiesDexter Broadhurst
Abbott and Costello in HollywoodBuzz Kurtis
1946Little GiantJohn Morrison/Tom Chandler
The Time of Their LivesCuthbert/Dr. Greenway
1947Buck Privates Come HomeSlicker SmithSequel to Buck Privates
The Wistful Widow of Wagon GapDuke Egan
1948The Noose Hangs HighTed HigginsAlso Producer (uncredited)
Abbott and Costello Meet FrankensteinChick Young
Mexican HayrideHarry Lambert
10,000 Kids and a CopHimselfDocumentary short
1949Africa ScreamsBuzz Johnson
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris KarloffCasey Edwards
1950Abbott and Costello in the Foreign LegionBud Jones
1951Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible ManBud Alexander
Comin' Round The MountainAl Stewart
1952Jack and the BeanstalkMr. DinklepussAlso Producer
Lost in AlaskaTom Watson
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain KiddRocky StonebridgeAlso Executive Producer
1953Abbott and Costello Go to MarsLester
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeSlim
1955Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone KopsHarry Pierce
Abbott and Costello Meet the MummyPeter Patterson
1956Dance With Me, HenryBud Flick
1965The World of Abbott and Costello-Compilation Film
1952–1954The Abbott and Costello ShowBud Abbott52 Episodes
1961General Electric TheaterErnie KauffmanEpisode: "The Joke's On Me" (04/16/61)
1967–1968The Abbott and Costello Cartoon ShowAbbott (Voice)156 Episodes

As himself[edit]


  1. ^ [1] WW1 Draft Registration, in his own hand, from 1918, at Ancestry.com [subscription[
  2. ^ The year of birth has been reported as 1895, 1896, 1897, and 1898 in different reliable sources. This has been discussed in some depth on this article's talk page. Following are a small selection of references supporting the different values. Oct 2, 1898: William A. Abbott "California Deaths, 1940 - 1997". Family Tree Legends Records Collection (Online Database). Pearl Street Software. 2004–2005. Records for William, Abbot. . Oct 2, 1895: Thomas, Bob (1977), Bud & Lou: the Abbott & Costello story (Google eBook), Lippincott, p. 25, ISBN 978-0-397-01195-7, retrieved March 31, 2011  Oct 6, 1897 and Oct 2, 1895: Nollen, Scott Allen (2009), "New Jersey Boys Make Good" (Google eBook), Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films, McFarland, p. 7, ISBN 978-0-7864-3521-0, retrieved March 31, 2011 ; "Abbott, Bud; and Costello, Lou". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  3. ^ a b http://www.biography.com/people/bud-abbott-20617237
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1994, p. 1.
  6. ^ Christopher Lyon, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers - Volume IV - Actors and Actresses,St. James Press, 1987, p. 7. ISBN 0-912289-08-2. Excerpt: "...while manager at the National Theater in Detroit, Abbott worked vaudeville as straight man to such performers as Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson."
  7. ^ a b "Abbott, Bud; and Costello, Lou". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  8. ^ Edward L. King. "Famous Masons A-L". Masonicinfo.com. Retrieved January 12, 2010. [unreliable source?]
  9. ^ "Masonic Actors, Musicians and Screen Writers". Phoenixmasonry.org. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bud, Abbott. "Famous Masons". Masonic List. Satuit Lodge. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ Bud Abbott dies at 78
  12. ^ Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  13. ^ Baseball Hall of Fame
  14. ^ New Jersey to Bon Jovi: You Give Us a Good Name Yahoo News, February 2, 2009

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