Here are 10 trivia facts about Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein from 1948, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.
1. This movie spans multiple genres.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (or, if you want to go by the film’s opening titles, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein) is most certainly a comedy, but it is also a horror movie and fits very nicely into the science fiction genre, as well.
2. The name of the film is a misnomer.
Does anyone in the movie ever actually meet Frankenstein? To be technical, Bud and Lou do encounter Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, and over the years, it has become common practice to call the monster after his creator, although it isn’t really correct. The original working title, “The Brain of Frankenstein,” would have been just as misleading.
3. A noted cartoonist had something to do with the film.
The scenes where Count Dracula is shown on screen as a bat–and the ones where he changes from Dracula to bat and vice versa–were done by none other than Universal-International’s favorite animator, Walter Lantz, who made lots of money for the studio with his Woody Woodpecker cartoons.
4. It was among the year’s highest-grossing films for the studio that released it.
Due to its popularity, it should come as no surprise that Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the second-biggest moneymaker for Universal-International in 1948. Other key U-I releases that year included All My Sons with Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster; the crime melodrama The Naked City; the Civil War saga Tap Roots; and Deanna Durbin’s screen swan song, For the Love of Mary…do you know what film took the top spot?
5. The director’s first film was a Zane Grey western.
Charles Barton, who helmed nine Abbott and Costello vehicles, made his directing debut with a Randolph Scott oater, Wagon Wheels, in 1934. In addition to more than 60 feature films, he was also the director of a multitude of crowd-pleasing TV series, including 52 episodes of The Amos ‘n Andy Show, 90 Dennis the Menace shows, 37 installments of Petticoat Junction, and over 100 episodes of Family Affair, plus lots more.
It’s probably not very well known, but Lou Costello initially balked at doing this movie. When he read the script, the funnyman supposedly said, “No way I’ll do that crap. My little girl could write something better than this.” So, what changed his mind? The blow was softened by a $50,000 salary advance but the kicker was when he heard Barton would direct. Charles was his good friend and favorite director. Eventually, as filming progressed, Costello actually became a fan.
6. A museum plays a role in the film.
Florida baggage handlers Chic Young and Wilbur Grey (Bud and Lou, respectively) mistakenly mix up two large boxes headed for McDougal’s House of Horrors Museum. When the suspicious-looking crates aren’t delivered as expected, the museum owner insists they be brought over personally for inspection by his insurance company. When Mr. McDougal brags about his new exhibits as being the actual remains of Count Dracula and the real Frankenstein Monster, the story (and the laughs) get under way.
7. Three of the stars played the same roles in other films.
Bela Lugosi has been known the world over as Count Dracula since he first appeared in the role on the stage and then in Universal’s Dracula (1931). Regardless of how many other actors played Dracula, it is Lugosi who immediately comes to the minds of film buffs. Oddly enough, with all the times Lugosi portrayed vampires in his films, 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the first feature since 1931 in which Bela was the undead Count, and it would prove to be the last. Those other roles that made it seem like he was playing Drac but wasn’t are: Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1943) and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952).
Lon Chaney, Jr. first started as lycanthrope Larry Talbot in 1941’s, and howled his way through three scare-filled sequels over the next few years: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943), opposite Lugosi as the Monster; House of Frankenstein (1944); and House of Dracula (1945). In his Universal career during the ’40s, Lon also played some of their other most successful monsters, including Count Dracula in Son of Dracula; Kharis the Mummy in three Mummy films; and even the Frankenstein Monster himself in The Ghost of Frankenstein. And a broken ankle suffered by actor Glenn Strange, after tripping on a camera cable during the shooting of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, gave Chaney an opportunity to double as the monster one more time (he can be seen throwing co-star Lenore Aubert through a window) while Strange recuperated.
B-western regular Strange had previously stepped into the over-sized boots of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation in both House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, before his appearance in this movie.
More trivia: This was the last time for over 50 years that Universal made use of the talents of Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster all in one movie. Not until 2004’s Van Helsing would the terrifying trio show up on screen for the studio again.
8. Two women vie for the affection of one of the lead characters in the movie.
Both the villainous Aubert as Count Dracula’s partner in crime Dr. Mornay and Jane Randolph as sweet Joan Raymond are interested in Lou Costello’s bumbling railway station clerk Wilbur Grey. But, truth be told, each of these gals has ulterior motives in their interest–Dr. Mornay, a talented surgeon, only wants Wilbur’s brain to be used in a scientific experiment with the Frankenstein Monster, while Joan is really investigating an insurance claim concerning the missing museum exhibits. Incidentally, Randolph was a last-minute replacement for actress Ella Raines, who unexpectedly backed out when filming got under way.
9. The film is listed as one of AFI’s top movies.
The American Film Institute created their 100 Years… 100 Laughs in 2000, seating Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein at #56. In a similar tribute, Reader’s Digest Magazine chose it to be among the top funniest movies ever made.
10. The two main stars appeared in many movies together.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello starred in 35 feature films together, from their screen debut in 1940’s One Night In The Tropics to their last in 1956, Dance With Me Henry. Of those movies, 28 of them (not counting the 1954 Spike Jones comedy, Fireman, Save My Child, which was to star Bud and Lou until health problems forced the duo to drop out–they can still be glimpsed in long shots) were made for Universal. All of this is in addition to more than 50 episodes of their popular 1952-54 TV series, The Abbott and Costello Show.
And now, enjoy the theatrical trailer for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein from 1948: