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  Time of Their Lives, The Ghost Of A Chance
Year: 1946
Director: Charles Barton
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marjorie Reynolds, Binnie Barnes, John Shelton, Gale Sondergaard, Lynn Baggett, Jess Barker, Ann Gillis, Donald MacBride, William Hall, Robert Barratt, Rex Lease
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1780 and the American revolutionary war is at its height, but at the house of one nobleman, there is still time for a party. Little do the guests know that their host is actually planning to turn traitor and sell out to the British, and there is a collection of troops heading over there tonight to arrest him. Meanwhile, local tinker Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) has arrived to meet with his sweetheart, Nora (Ann Gillis), and she finds him in the barn, where she brings him food. Unfortunately for him, his nemesis, the butler Greenaway (Bud Abbott), tracks him there as well and locks him in a chest - why, this is a feud that could last decades...

It's unclear whether The Time of Their Lives, as with Abbott and Costello's previous film Little Giant, was made the way it was because the team had fallen out, or if it had always been planned not to feature the boys together for most of the storyline. Whatever, this is generally considered the superior of these two efforts, although you can see why audiences of the day didn't take to it too well as it was unconventional to keep the stars apart to say the least. As it was, the humour was pretty much on their usual level, but lacking the customary fast-talking routines that had made their names.

According to Abbott, this was his favourite role because he got to be the source of the humour for a change rather than his partner, suggesting a spot of professional jealousy was going on. It plays pretty well, and he showed he could handle the funny business just as well as Costello if he had been given more of a chance. Initially he is in his more traditonal persona only in period costume, but after one brief scene where Greenaway locks up Horatio, we never see the two exchange any lines at all. This is all a lengthy preamble to the main plot, which does not take place back in the eighteenth century at all.

This does give rise to an oddly unsettling sequence where Horatio, along with the lady adventurer Melody (Marjorie Reynolds) he is assisting, ends up being shot dead by the wrong side alongside her, and their bodies dumped in the well, not the kind of thing you might expect from a lighthearted comedy, and not from this era, for that matter. That's the trouble with ghost comedies, to get to be spooks your characters have to die. Anyway, Horatio and Melody get trapped between this world and the next, stuck around the well and unable to leave the grounds of the mansion house until someone discovers they were not traitors after all.

Enter four people to move in, with the new owner Sheldon (John Shelton) proud that he has furnished the place to look just as it did in its heyday. Pleasingly, his housekeeper is that elegant lady of menace Gale Sondergaard, who handily enough is a psychic and can hear the ghosts - not that anyone believes her, not until they start to create havoc in their attempts to find a letter written by George Washington himself that will exonerate them, that is. Among the four are Greenaway's descendent, also played by Bud, who is a psychiatrist and ends up the victim of much of the slapstick, which involves plenty of fun special effects. If you're looking for something diifferent from a venerated comedy team, this is far more experimental than anything Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy ever did, even if it was produced more out of necessity than any boundary-pushing. Music by Milton Rosen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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