10/21/16

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET...WHAT WAS HIS NAME?



Here's a reel of blooper/outtakes from Abbott and Costello's 1949 offering "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (actually one of several of their 1949 offerings). Like most outtake reels, the mistakes themselves are less funny to us then they seem to have been to the performers but there are hidden items of interest in these reels that always keep me watching. Thanks to the existence of these snippets, we can actually get a sense of what being on a movie set seventy (or sometimes more) years ago was like. Certain customs have changed. The word 'action', used now to tell the actors to begin, seems not have been in use then. Instead the director calls "Camera!" Why is this? It's not to tell the cameraman to begin rolling as the camera is clearly already rolling. Why would the word for the machine that's capturing the scene itself be used for telling the actors to get to work? Sadly I have no answer for this.

We also see (at 9:25) the way in which playback is used to start the couples dancing on the dance floor and then cut off in order not to interfere with the dialogue track. This is still done, but again it bring us onto the set and strips the scene of artifice which, for some reason, makes my spine tingle. It's nice to see the real Bela Lugosi laughing in real life (at 8:25) but the most interesting thing of all is what happens after many of the blown takes (most of which are flubs by Lou). As he screws up a line or realizes he's lost his place in the scene, Lou turns to the camera and makes a "scissors" sign, telling them to cut. Then he looks off to somebody specific off camera and says "that one's for me". My guess is that its the script girl, who will note to the editors that Mr. Costello wants them to save that flub for his personal collection. Apparently Lou had one hell of a blooper reel that he probably used to entertain friends and lackeys with at his legendary Christmas parties.

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