Bear Manor Media has released a long-awaited title in the MagicImage Filmscripts series: Hold That Ghost. As with all MagicImage titles, the book contains the final shooting script for the original production, which was called “Oh, Charlie,” as well as the revisions and re-take script that became Hold That Ghost. Also included is the film’s press book, a detailed production history, and over 150 stills and screen grabs. The hefty, 392-page volume retails for $30; the hardcover edition is $40.
As author Ron Palumbo explains, “The scripts and the stills give us our best opportunity to compare the original production with the film we know and love.”
Filming did not go smoothly in either in its original form or when it was supplemented with new scenes, Palumbo says. “Early on, Lou missed a few days’ work because of a bad cold or flu,” Palumbo said. “Days were also lost due to bad weather. Universal was pretty distressed, since it was costing them time and money. To catch up, there were some long days and late nights. But then Buck Privates became a hit, and suddenly the studio didn’t care what it spent on Hold That Ghost. They held it back to quickly make In The Navy, then hastily added musical numbers, new scenes, and re-shot some others things.”
The Andrews Sisters were added to Hold That Ghost because they had appeared in Buck Privates and the studio wasn’t about to fool with a hit formula. But how did Ted Lewis wind up in the picture? “Fortunately for Universal—and maybe unfortunately for us—Ted’s revue opened in Los Angeles at just the right time,” Ron explained. “Lewis is impossibly corny to us now, and was to some people back then, too. But he continued to draw crowds and receive good reviews.”
The film’s inspiration and centerpiece is the “Moving Candle” routine, which Palumbo traces back to 19th century minstrel and medicine shows. “John Grant, the boys’ writer, provided a script for the routine, and it’s in the book. It includes several other bits besides the ‘Moving Candle.’”
Not everything in the book is comedic, however. The Hollywood Blacklist casts it shadow. Screenwriters Robert Lees and Fred Rinaldo and co-star Marc Lawrence were blacklisted exactly ten years later during a second round of House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings. But being a member of the Communist Party was never illegal. “Many of the Hollywood unions were organized by people who were also members of the Communist Party. This was in response to salary and working conditions at the studios,” Ron said. “My favorite quote is from a screenwriter who said, ‘Louis B. Mayer created more communists than Karl Marx.’”
Fred Rinaldo’s son, Robert, wrote the book’s Foreword. “I thought it would be a fitting tribute if the Rinaldo name was on another Abbott and Costello production,” Palumbo explained. “This was the first of several A&C films, including the brilliant Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, that his dad wrote with Bob Lees.”
Hold That Ghost was a huge hit and cemented Abbott and Costello’s standing as movie stars and great comedians. “It’s funny,” Ron said, “but several reviewers actually wrote about the audience response to the picture—the screams and sidesplitting laughter. It was an exceptional reaction, even for Bud and Lou.”•