Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Time of Their Lives

This was one of my long-time friend Gary Looney's favorite Abbott and Costello movies, and the last time I saw it was with him about 45 years ago. So I thought it was time to watch it again. It's a good film, but it's certainly not a typical outing for Bud and Lou.

THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES opens during the Revolutionary War with Lou playing a tinker and Bud the butler on an estate belonging to a wealthy young man who's cooperating with Benedict Arnold to betray the American forces. Through a twist of fate, Lou and the young woman who's engaged to the estate's owner are mistakenly thought to be traitors and shot and killed by some American soldiers. Their ghosts are cursed to remain bound to the estate unless they can somehow prove their innocence. Not exactly a laugh riot so far.

We jump ahead to 1946, the year this movie was released. A young man who seems to be a World War II veteran who had a hard time of it (although this is never really made clear) has the old mansion rebuilt and bring his fiancee and her aunt to visit, unaware that the place is haunted. The guy's psychiatrist—an unlikely role for Bud Abbott—comes along, too. Ghostly hijinks ensue, mostly revolving around the search for a letter from George Washington that will clear the names of the two spirits and let them move on to their heavenly reward.

For the most part, this is a movie that's mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, although I can't watch Lou Costello for very long without laughing at least a little. Bud and Lou interact hardly at all and there's none of their trademark banter. The plot has some rather dark undertones, too, what with traitors, death, and whatever's plaguing the young WW2 vet. Lou works hard, though, and the female lead, Marjorie Reynolds, is beautiful and sports a bra that would put your eye out.

So overall it's a pleasant movie. My favorite Abbott and Costello films are probably BUCK PRIVATES and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, and THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES isn't up to that level, but it's certainly enjoyable and well worth watching.


Scott Parker said...

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is probably my favorite. Hilarity, banter, and the great chemistry are all on display. But what makes this film special is how the monsters are treated and how they interact. They are played straight. You don't see Frankenstein tripping over a crate or Dracula slipping on a banana peel. The tag ending is the closest thing to having a "monster" be funny.

Paul R. McNamee said...

One of my favorites. Haven't watched it in a long time but it always stood out to me because it was so different from their other movies.

I have since learned that they were feuding during filming and that's the reason they didn't play the movie in their usual duo mode.

Gary Goldstein said...

They were feuding at that time but that's not the sole reason for them working separately in THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES. Bud and Lou were coming off a rough few years, box office-wise, in 1946--Little Giant, Naughty Nineties, etc. and it was thought that they needed to try something different. Universal changed ownership around this time as well--they became Universal International, and the new owners had no real love for A&C (despite the fact that their pictures, though not as successful as they had once been, were still very profitable and allowed U-I to make high budget stinkers). THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES is one of their best movies but it didn't help their track record at the box office. Not until Buck Privates Come Home the next year in 1947 did A&C did things turn around for them. With A&C MEET FRANKENSTEIN, though, they were back on top. It was, in my opinion, the last great movie they made. Everything that followed was second rate.

James Reasoner said...

I agree about ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. I always enjoy watching Bud and Lou, but a lot of the Fifties movies are pretty mediocre with a few bright spots here and there.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

We watch this fairly often because it is my wife's favorite A & C movie,

Favorite line: "Didn't I see you in REBECCA?"