Two bumbling service station attendants are left as the sole beneficiaries in a gangster's will. Their trip to claim their fortune is sidetracked when they are stranded in a haunted house along with several other strangers.
Bud Abbott ... Chuck Murray
Lou Costello ... Ferdinand 'Ferdie' Jones
Richard Carlson ... Dr. Duncan 'Doc' Jackson
Joan Davis ... Camille Brewster
Mischa Auer ... Gregory (head waiter)
Evelyn Ankers ... Norma Lind
Marc Lawrence ... Charlie Smith
Shemp Howard ... Soda jerk
Director: Arthur Lubin
DivX 5 / MP3
HOLD THAT GHOST directed by Arthur Lubin, features the studio's ever popular comedy team of Abbott and Costello (in their third starring roles) in a true and tried formula of a haunted house theme. Breaking away from army duty as BUCK PRIVATES and Naval reserves from IN THE NAVY, HOLD THAT GHOST ranks one of their more successful features of the period, cleverly mixing comedy with suspense along with classic routines associated with Abbott and Costello, some that would be repeated again, notably for their other spectacularly comedy in 1948 where they meet "Frankenstein."
Abbott and Costello are in fine form here, with Costello displaying his comedic talent during several of his frightening moments, with familiar stock underscoring heard many times in Universal thrillers through most the 1940s. Comedienne Joan Davis benefits to the story as Costello's counterpart with such notable scenes together including their burlesque dancing to "The Blue Danube Waltz," their observing the candles placed on the table which he sees moving but she doesn't; plus the figure of speeches Costello makes ("Gone with the wind") which causes Davis to ask, "What wind?". A pity that Costello and Davis never worked together again. They were so funny together. Other highlights include Costello's room changing into a gambling casino every time he places his coat on the movable hook. Richard Carlson, the intellectual professor of research, and Evelyn Ankers, the future scream queen of Universal horror of the 1940s, each play it straight to perfection as the secondary romantic couple.
Although it's unlikely for a "haunted house" themed comedy to find time for musical numbers, the tunes and night club sequences were actually added in after filming was completed. The soundtrack includes "When My Baby Smiles At Me" (sung by Ted Lewis) by Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer; "Me and My Shadow" (sung by Lewis); "Sleepy Serenade" (sung by The Andrews Sisters) by Mort Greene and Lou Singer; "The Blue Danube" (comically performed by Lou Costello and Joan Davis in Manston tavern); and "Aurora" (sung by The Andrews Sisters) by Harold Adamson, Maria Logo and Roberto Roberti. These tunes, particularly "Aurora" are enjoyable, and fortunately doesn't slow down the pace by any means.
Released in theaters at 86 minutes, television prints since the 1960s and beyond eliminated the opening twelve minute night club segment in order to fit in commercial breaks into a 90 minute time slot, thus normally starting with Bud and Lou at the filling station talking about how they got fired from their last job ("what job?"). It wasn't until the mid-1980s and distribution to video cassette (and DVD) when these lifted scenes were finally restored. Even without the early nightclub portion, the Andrews Sisters, Ted Lewis and Mischa Auer are seen before the finish.
A favorite amongst Abbott and Costello fans
# The Andrews Sisters were brought in after filming wrapped and the final nightclub footage was edited in after the film's completion.
# The runaway success of Buck Privates (1941) caused a stir within the upper ranks of Universal, who had already begun production of Hold That Ghost (1941). The studio was enjoying it's first solidly profitable year since it was acquired by new owners in 1936 and wanted to exploit Abbott & Costello as logically as possible. The team's next assignment, In the Navy (1941) was resoundingly agreed to be a better follow up project so this horror-comedy was ordered halted. Production resumed about 4 months later. In retrospect, the decision was logical but probably unnecessary since the comedy duo was the hottest act in show business, and would remain so throughout the war years.