Abbott and Costello - Later Years

Later Years

In the 1950s Abbott and Costello's popularity waned as their place as filmdom's hottest comedy team was taken by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Another reason for the decline was overexposure. Abbott and Costello's routines, already familiar, were now glutting the movie and television markets. Each year they made two new films, while Realart Pictures re-released most of their older hits; their filmed television series was widely syndicated, and the same routines appeared frequently on the Colgate program. (Writer Parke Levy told Jordan R. Young, in The Laugh Crafters: Comedy Writing in Radio and TV's Golden Age, that he was stunned to learn that Bud and Lou were afraid to perform new material.) They were forced to withdraw from Fireman Save My Child in 1954 due to Costello's health and were replaced by Hugh O'Brian and Buddy Hackett. Universal dropped the comedy team in 1955 after they could not agree on contract terms. In the early 1950s the Internal Revenue Service charged them for back taxes, forcing them to sell their homes and most of their assets, including the rights to most of their films.

In 1956 they made one independent film, Dance with Me, Henry, then formally dissolved their partnership in 1957. Lou Costello made about ten solo appearances on The Steve Allen Show and headlined in Las Vegas. He also appeared in episodes of GE Theater and Wagon Train. On March 3, 1959, not long after completing his lone solo film, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, Lou Costello died of a heart attack just days short of his 53rd birthday.

Bud Abbott attempted a comeback in 1960, teaming with Candy Candido. Although the new act received good reviews, Bud quit, saying, "No one could ever live up to Lou." Abbott made a solo appearance on an episode of GE Theater in 1961. In 1966 Bud voiced his character in a series of 156 five-minute Abbott and Costello cartoons made by Hanna-Barbera. Lou's character was voiced by Stan Irwin. Bud Abbott died of cancer on April 24, 1974.

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