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Costello Without Abbott?

Beverly Washburn and Costello

By Beverly Washburn, Hollywood Memories

I thought this month I’d tell you a little bit about Lou Costello. I had the good fortune of working with him in an episode of Wagon Train called “The Tobias Jones Story.”

It was the one and only dramatic role he ever did. It really was a stretch for him; seeing as how when he was known as part of the comedy duo Abbott and Costello, he did a lot of slapstick and was able to ad-lib quite a bit.

He was so cute because he actually had quite a bit of dialogue to memorize and each time, he would forget his lines; rather than just stopping, he would look directly into the camera without missing a beat and say “So how are ya?” It always made me giggle.

He was wonderful in the role and one of the nicest men I’ve ever worked with. I of course was a big fan of his, so I was thrilled when I was cast as the little orphan who was befriended by him.

He played a drifter with a drinking problem, and we were stowaways on the wagon train. The plot revolves around us hiding, but after being discovered, Ward Bond, the wagon master, decides to let us stay.

During the course of the show, there’s a murder, and they believed that Lou did it and would hang for the crime. That’s a very sad me in the scene—as I knew he couldn’t possibly have done it.

Well, here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on. It turns out the real murderer in the show is none other than Harry VonZell who also wrote the script! You’ll remember him from the old Burns and Allen show.

Lou Costello was one of my most favorite people I’ve ever worked with, but I must say that even at my young age, I sensed a kind of sadness in his persona. Although he was funny and sweet, something just told me that he felt a certain loneliness or emptiness.

At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but after we finished filming, I found out.

His beloved son Lou Jr. whose nickname was Butch drowned two days short of his first birthday in 1943. Even though it was now 1958, Lou never got over the loss.

Sadly, it caused a rift in his marriage to Anne Battler. Although they didn’t divorce, he always blamed her for the drowning.

Lou Costello died of a heart attack on March 3, 1959, three days before his 53rd birthday. Although it was reported that he was surrounded by friends and family at the time of his death, he actually was alone in his hospital room with his private nurse who said he had a Strawberry ice cream soda and then simply slipped away.

Interestingly, but sadly, his partner, Bud Abbott, did not attend his funeral. He and Bud reportedly had a rift in 1945 over a personal matter involving domestic help. They tried to patch things up in 1947 but things were never quite the same.

I will always treasure my memory of working with him.

Until next time remember: “When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile” MSN

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