Be honest, you never expected this to be a top-tier production. It’s Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, starring Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd and the eponymous Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as 18th century flunkies Rocky Stonebridge and “Puddin’ Head” Feathergill. Of course, it’s all played for laughs as Laughton reprises his role as the notorious pirate from the 1945 production Captain Kidd. This one came out in 1952, distributed by Warner Brothers. Images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies, and details are from Wikipedia.
It’s all played for laughs, and music, too. Here we see the vicious Captain Kidd snarling as his merry band of cutthroat pirates go about their duties on deck while singing in harmony. Then they spot their destination and go ashore. This is where everything begins to unravel.
Onshore we meet clown princes, Stonebridge and Feathergill, working as scullery drudges and generally goofing off. Here is the classic sight gag as a sweet lady needs to cross the street, but a water puddle blocks her path. Feathergill gallantly takes off his jacket and spreads it across the water so the lady can cross feet-dry. Only, the water is deeper than expected. It’s the top gag of the movie.
Of course, there’s a treasure map, and the two clowns are shanghaied aboard Captain Kidd’s ship to go get the treasure. More gags, as Feathergill tricks Captain Kidd into locking his hands behind his own back. What fascinated me most was seeing Laughton, winner of an Academy Award for The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), plus having picked two other top-tier nominations, playing slap-stick comedy with Abbott and Costello. Of course, he does it with characteristic aplomb and well. See him in Ruggles of Red Gap.
The production is a combination of comedy and musical, with numerous dance and song interludes sprinkled throughout. Here lovers Bruce Martingale (Bill Shirley) and Lady Jane (Fran Warren) entertain the bloodthirsty crew with a sweet duet. This was Warren’s first movie role.
To be sure, the clowns prevail over the double-crossing Captain Kidd, and Feathergill winds up in the arms of notorious lady pirate Captain Bonney (Hillary Brooke). Feathergill may not look like much, but he sure can kiss.
No, I am not going to dissect the plot. The plot exists only to display the zany antics of Abbott and Costello. For more of the same, see my previous review of Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. On stage and even on radio (before TV), the pair were slam dunk hilarious. A movie production requires they intersperse the slapstick with snatches of plot, which absolutely destroys the continuity. And that’s what’s wrong. In this production some classic skits wilt, such as a wave that smacks Feathergill in the face when he opens a port hole to look out, but never does for Stonebridge. This is funny enough, but Laughton brings it to a peak. Feathergill tricks Captain Kidd into looking out and is chagrined when he turns away stone dry. Then the captain opens the door to go on-deck and is drenched by a giant wave. Now that is funny.
I have additional Abbott and Costello flicks to review. Keep reading.