William Alexander Abbott was born on October 2, 1895 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to a Barnum and Bailey Circus family. His father Harry was an advance man, and his mother Rae Fisher was a bareback rider. His younger sister, Olive Victoria Abbott, would also perform in the circus and Vaudeville.
Abbott entered the family business and worked for carnivals and circuses before he dropped out of school in 1909 and went to work full time in travelling and theatrical entertainment at Coney Island and elsewhere. He took various jobs both onstage and off, and at the age of 16, Abbott's father got him a job as a treasurer for the Casino Theater in Brooklyn.
Abbott entered the burlesque circuit and quickly gained a reputation as a talented straight man who had performed opposite such noted Vaudeville comics as Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson. In 1918, he met and married burlesque dancer and comedienne Betty Smith. In 1931, he was asked to fill in as straight man for Lou Costello. The two had chemistry and found audiences responded well to them, so in 1936 they formed a comedy duo which would last for the next twenty years.
After a popular appearance on The Kate Smith Hour radio show, and an appearance in the Broadway show The Streets of Paris, Universal Studios hired the two for film work in 1939. Although only in supporting roles, they stole their scenes in their film debut, One Night in the Tropics. They were soon starring in their own films, among the most popular and successful film comedies of World War II. They became international celebrities who lent their clout to the war bonds effort. Also in the 1940s, Abbott and his wife adopted two children—Bud, Jr. in 1942 and Victoria in 1949.
At the dawn of television, NBC cast Abbott and Costello to host The Colgate Comedy Hour, a variety show with rotating hosts. The success of their work there led CBS to create The Abbott and Costello Show to showcase their classic comedy bits, including the famous "Who's on First" routine.
In 1957, Abbott and Costello split amicably, but they were deeply in debt to the Internal Revenue Services for back taxes. Abbott was forced to sell his Encino, California estate and ran an unsuccessful campaign for donations. Desperate for money and with Costello now dead, he attempted to form a new comedy duo with Candy Candido, but this did not last long, and Abbott was reported as having said that nobody could live up to his experience with Costello.
Bud Abbott died on April 24, 1974 in Woodland Hills, California of cancer—the result of a lifelong battle with epilepsy. His cremated remains were spread over the Pacific Ocean.
|The Abbott and Costello Show (1952)||Himself||1952–1953||1||2|
|The Abbott and Costello Show (1966)||Himself||1966||1|
Guest Starring Roles
Specials and Made-for-TV Movies
Talk, News and Game Show Appearances
|The Ed Sullivan Show||December 4, 1955|
|This Is Your Life||Lou Costello||November 21, 1956|
Notable Film Roles
- One Night in the Tropics (1940): Bud Abbott
- Buck Privates (1941): Slicker Smith
- In the Navy (1941): Smokey Adams
- The Naughty Nineties (1945): Dexter Broadhurst
- Buck Privates Come Home (1947): Slicker Smith
- The Noose Hangs High (1948): Ted Higgins
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): Chick Young
- Africa Screams (1949): Buzz Johnson
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949): Casey Edwards
- Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950): Bud Jones
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951): Bud Alexander
- Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953): Slim
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955): Peter Patterson
- Dance with Me Henry (1956): Bud Flick
Awards and Accolades
Hollywood Walk of Fame
- TV Star
- Motion Picture Star
- Baseball Hall of Fame, USA
- Recording of "Who's on First?" comedy routine at museum
- Montclair University, USA
- Named the Abbott and Costello Center after him and Lou Costello
- United States Postal Service, USA
- Honored with a stamp in 1991