William Alexander “Bud” Abbott was an American actor, best known for his film comedy double act, as straight man to Lou Costello. Born on October 2, 1897, in Asbury Park, he was born into a show business family. Abbott worked in the box office of several theaters before becoming a comedian and producer of burlesque shows on Broadway, where he allowed Costello (who was from Paterson, N.J.) to appear with him when his own partner was ill. They formally teamed up in 1935. Their signature routine, “Who’s on First?”, was carried through from stage to radio and then to their films, “One Night in the Tropics” (1940) and “Buck Privates” (1941).
The duo would go on to make 36 films. During World War II, they were among the most popular entertainers in the world, and sold $85 million in war bonds.
Abbott and Costello launched their own long-running radio show in 1942, and then a live TV show. But by 1955, they were felt to be over-exposed, their film contract was terminated, and the partnership split soon afterwards. Costello died in 1959, and Abbott’s attempts to work with new partners did not succeed. In his last years, he was troubled with serious tax problems and heavy drinking to stave off epileptic seizures. Groucho Marx declared Abbott to be the best straight man in the comedy business. Abbot and Costello are among the only entertainers with thee stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for their achievements radio, TV and movies.
Bud Abbott, Straight Man To Lou Costello, Is Dead. (1974). The New York Times, April 25, 1974, p. 42.
Thomas, Bob. (1977). Bud and Lou; The Abbott and Costello Story. J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, Pa.