Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


LOU'S ON FIRST. A Biography by Chris Costello with Raymond Strait. St. Martin's Press. 1981. [NOTE: A more recent edition was published by Cooper Square Press in 2000.]

This is a very entertaining biography of Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello fame by his youngest daughter Chris. The book looks at his early life, the beginnings of his career, meeting Bud Abbott, the swift rise of Abbott and Costello, their many different films (although there is little if any film analysis) for different studios, with quotes from relatives and other people who knew and worked with him. Chris writes affectingly of the terrible tragedy -- the drowning death of Lou's little boy Butch a couple of days before his first birthday (the photo of the little fellow getting his first haircut is a heart breaker) -- that terribly impacted on him, his wife, and his life from that day forward. Lou's on First is not a whitewash, but neither is it a "Daddy Dearest;" Costello writes with real affection of her father, but doesn't cover up the gambling addiction that led to serious IRS troubles, and the loss of the heady lifestyle that the author grew up with. Costello also examines with compassion her mother's alcoholism, as well as the illness that laid her father out flat for almost a year and troubled him increasingly in later years; as well, she looks into the strained relationship that existed between Lou and Bud. In all, it's an affectionate portrait of a talented, exasperating, troubled and all-too-human human being.

Verdict: Excellent. ***1/2.

No comments: