Here's another set of Abbott and Costello classic comedies from the 1940s! See my other set of reviews here.
Little Giant (1946) directed by William Seiter
Lou is a small town guy just finishing a correspondence course in salesmanship. The course ends with a recommendation to move to the big city. The nearest one is Los Angeles, so Lou goes to try his hand at selling vacuum cleaners at the company where his uncle works. He wants to make enough money so his mom doesn't have to work. The company's manager is a tyrant (Bud Abbott) who treats everyone badly except for his assistant (Jacqueline DeWitt), who he has secretly married. Lou has a hard time in actual sales, leading on a voyage of comedy and pathos.
The movie is a departure for the duo, with the main emphasis on Lou and almost no routines (they do reprise the "7 times 13 is 28" routine from Buck Privates). The resulting movie has a lot more plot and dramatic moments which I found a little off-putting for an Abbott and Costello film. I still laughed plenty but there are tear-jerking moments too.
The Time of Their Lives (1946) directed by Charles Barton
Lou is Horatio Prim, a tinker in American Revolutionary times. He's in love with a girl at the Danbury Estate and wants to run away with her and get married. Prim even has a letter of recommendation from General George Washington. Unfortunately Danbury is a royalist plotting with Benedict Arnold to get West Point. Through a series of misadventures, Horatio and Danbury's finance Melody (Marjorie Reynolds) are killed as they flee to warn the patriots about the Arnold plot (in an interesting twist, they are killed by the patriots). They are thrown in a well and cursed as traitors unless some evidence can be found to exonerate them. Locals come to the estate, steal all the furniture, and burn down the house. Horatio and Melody think the letter was hidden in the house and despair of finding letter which was taken by Danbury. 165 years later, the house is rebuilt by a historian with the original furniture, one of which has the letter hidden in a secret drawer. The ghosts of Horatio and Melody haunt the house and work with the people to solve their problem.
Bud has a duel role. First he plays a butler at the Danbury Estate who has it in for Horatio, causing a lot of comedic conflict. Second, he plays a modern-day psychologist who first scoffs at the ghost stories but comes to believe as Horatio persecutes the man who looks just like the butler.
The plot is very well written and moves at a good pace. The comedy is naturally blended in and works well. A lot of special effects (mostly ghost gags) give a good variety to the jokes. The duo does a great job and the rest of the cast ably supports them. This is top-tier Abbott and Costello filmmaking.
Highly recommended--this, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, are my favorites from the duo.
Buck Privates Come Home (1947) directed by Charles Barton
In this only sequel by the duo, Bud and Lou are soldiers returning from World War II. Lou has an orphaned French girl stowed in his pack, creating the main plotline for the movie. The Army wants to send her back to France while the boys want to adopt her. Consulting the French Embassy, they find out they need a steady income and to be married in order to keep the child. One of their war friends has a midget race car that he thinks can win big if he can just get it out of hock. Bud and Lou go for GI loans to become partners with him while they try to keep the child out of sight, especially from their ex-sergeant who has gone back to his pre-war job--a beat cop.
They boys revert to their usual shtick--comedy routines more or less shoehorned in to the main plot. There's one song at the beginning but no musical guests or numbers. The movie ends with their typical chase scene, this time with Lou driving the midget car through all sorts of improbable situations.
This is an entertaining return to their formula with plenty of laughs and almost no melodrama like in the previous two films.
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947) directed by Charles Barton
Bud and Lou are late-1800s traveling salesmen on the way to California. They stop over in Wagon Gap, Montana. The town is as Wild West as it gets. Lou accidentally kills a man and the local vigilantes plan to string him up. But there is a Montana law that anyone who kills or maims a man must take care of the victim's widow and children. The dead man's widow is Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main), a shrewish woman who puts fear into everyone. Bud certainly is cowed by her demeanor. He has to do a lot of chores on the Hawkins farm and pay off the dead man's debts. One debtor forces him to work nights in a saloon which just about wipes Lou out. When a local threatens to kill him, Bud insists that he shoots so the other guyy can take on the Widow's chores. The guy backs off immediately and Bud becomes the unassailable hero of Wagon Gap! No one wants to deal with the Widow Hawkins.
The movie is a fun send-up of Westerns with a good mix of routines by Bud and Lou. The comedy works well and fits the plot. I laughed a lot.