The Time of Their Lives

Odds bodkins, we’re all mixed up!–Horatio Prim

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The heart and soul of the Abbott and Costello movies is of course their vaudeville routines, routines they hadperfected working countless burlesque shows in the 1930’s. Without them, you simply can’t have an Abbott and Costello movie.  I mean, Lou can’t fall over the suitcases without Bud being there to push him, and Bud can’t remain incredulous if Lou doesn’t first believe.  Or so one would have thought.  However, The Time of Their Lives was made in 1946 after Bud and Lou had a falling out. It contains nothing of the sort, and yet it’s one of their very best films.    

In The Time of Their Lives, instead of being partnered per usual with Bud, Lou is partnered with Marjorie Reynolds, who does a fine job as his hapless co-victim who is mistaken for a traitor and unceremoniously killed and thrown into a well during the Revolutionary War. Cursed to remain ghosts on the grounds forever lest something should prove their innocence, all appears lost until 166 years later four people come to spend the night at the newly rebuilt estate, including a descendent of Abbott’s character who had wronged Horatio all those many years ago.   

Lou’s character, being a ghost, this time has the advantage on Abbott, and part of the appeal no doubt in small part is simply owed to seeing the shoe on the other foot, as Lou has the kind of sport with Bud that usually occurs the other way around.  The performances, too, are good, especially from Costello and Marjorie Reynolds, who have decent chemistry together.   But what really makes the film work, other than the gags of course, is that the story this time takes center stage rather than simply existing as an excuse for Bud and Lou’s antics.  As stories go, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward find the McGuffin affair, but it’s sufficient to leave us not only laughing at Lou’s crazy shenanigans, but emotionally invested enough in his character to care whether or not he succeeds.   

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