Duffy’s Tavern

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Ed Garner’s Duffy’s Tavern

Duffy’s Tavern was a popular American radio situation comedy which ran for a decade on several networks (CBS, 1941–1942; NBC-Blue Network, 1942–1944; NBC, 1944–1951), concluding with the December 28, 1951 broadcast.

The program often featured celebrity guest stars but always hooked them around the misadventures, get-rich-quick schemes and romantic missteps of the title establishment’s malaprop-prone, metaphor-mixing manager, Archie, portrayed by Ed Gardner, the writer/actor who co-created the series.

In the familiar opening, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” performed either solo on an old-sounding piano or by a larger orchestra, was interrupted by the ring of a telephone and Gardner’s New York  accent as he answered, “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin’. Duffy ain’t here—oh, hello, Duffy.”

Writer, Actor and Co-creator Ed Gardner

Owner Duffy was never heard over the telephone or seen (in the 1945 film adaptation or the short-lived 1954 TV series). Archie constantly bantered with Duffy’s man-crazy daughter, Miss Duffy (played by several actresses, beginning with Gardner’s real-life first wife, Shirley Booth), and especially with Clifton Finnegan (Charlie Cantor, later Sid Raymond), a likeable soul with several screws loose and a knack for falling for every other salesman’s scam. Eddie the Waiter was played by Eddie Green; the pianist Fats Pichon took over the role after Green’s death in 1950. Hoping to take advantage of the income tax free status of Puerto Rico for future projects, Gardner moved the radio show there in 1949.

The series featured many high-profile guest stars, including Fred Allen, Mel Allen, Nigel Bruce, Billie Burke, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Boris Karloff, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Peter Lorre, Tony Martin, Marie McDonald, Gene Tierney, Arthur Treacher and Shelley Winters. As the series progressed, Archie slipped in and out of a variety of quixotic, self-imploding plotlines—from writing an opera to faking a fortune to marry an heiress. Such situations mattered less than did the clever depiction of earthbound-but-dreaming New York life and its individualistic, often bizarre characters.

Duffy’s Tavern was Gardner’s creation, and he oversaw its writing intently enough, drawing also on his earlier experience as a successful radio director. His directing credits included stints for George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and The Rudy Vallee Hour. Gardner also brought aboard several keen writing talents, including theatric humorist Abe Burrows (the show’s co-creator and head writer for its first five years), future M*A*S*H writer Larry Gelbart and Dick Martin, who later was the co-host of television’s groundbreaking Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

Early in the show’s life, however, its name, Duffy’s Tavern, was changed—first to Duffy’s and, for four episodes, Duffy’s Variety. A staffer for Bristol-Myers — whose Ipana toothpaste was the show’s early sponsor—persuaded the company’s publicity director to demand the name change because the original title promoted “the hobby of drinking” too much for certain sensibilities.

DuffysTavern the Movie

Bristol-Myers eventually admitted the staffer had little to go on other than a handful of protesting letters, and—to the delight of fans who never stopped using the original name, anyway—the original title was restored permanently. The name change was often subverted by the Armed Forces Radio Network. When the AFRN rebroadcast those episodes for U.S. servicemen during World War II, the announcer referred to Duffy’s Tavern.

Listen to Duffy’s Tavern on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

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Duffy’s Tavern -Bond Drive with Boris Karloff (1943)

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Syndicated in January 1955. The TV edition wasn’t as successful as the long-running radio show.  It lasted just one season!

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The Abbott & Costello Show

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William (Bud) Abbott and Lou Costello (born Louis Francis Cristillo)

William (Bud) Abbott and Lou Costello  performed together as Abbott and Costello, an American comedy duo whose work on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s, as well as a top ten box office draw for a full decade (1942—1952).

The team’s first known radio appearance was on The Kate Smith Hour in February, 1938. Initially, the similarities between their voices made it difficult for listeners (as opposed to stage audiences) to tell them apart due to their rapid-fire repartee.

The problem was solved by having Costello affect a high-pitched childish voice. “Who’s on First?” was first performed for a national radio audience the following month.

They stayed on the program as regulars for two years, while landing roles in a Broadway revue, “The Streets of Paris”, in 1939.

Streets of Paris 1939

In 1940 they were signed by Universal Studios for the film One Night in the Tropics. Cast in supporting roles, they stole the show with several classic routines, including “Who’s on First?” The same year they were a summer replacement on radio for Fred Allen. Two years later, they had their own NBC show.

After working as Allen’s summer replacement, Abbott and Costello joined Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1941, while two of their films (Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost) were adapted for Lux Radio Theater. They launched their own weekly show October 8, 1942, sponsored by Camel cigarettes.

The Abbott and Costello Show mixed comedy with musical interludes (by vocalists such as Connie Haines, Ashley Eustis, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Skinnay Ennis, and the Les Baxter Singers). Regulars and semi-regulars on the show included Artie Auerbach (“Mr. Kitzel”), Elvia Allman, Iris Adrian, Mel Blanc, Wally Brown, Sharon Douglas, Verna Felton, Sidney Fields, Frank Nelson, Martha Wentworth, and Benay Venuta. Ken Niles was the show’s longtime announcer, doubling as an exasperated foil to Abbott and Costello’s mishaps (and often fuming in character as Costello routinely insulted his on-air wife).

Ken Niles

Niles was succeeded by Michael Roy, with announcing chores also handled over the years by Frank Bingman and Jim Doyle. The show went through several orchestras during its radio life, including those of Ennis, Charles Hoff, Matty Matlock, Matty Malneck, Jack Meakin, Will Osborne, Fred Rich, Leith Stevens, and Peter van Steeden. The show’s writers included Howard Harris, Hal Fimberg, Parke Levy, Don Prindle, Eddie Cherkose (later known as Eddie Maxwell), Leonard B. Stern, Martin Ragaway, Paul Conlan, and Eddie Forman, as well as producer Martin Gosch. Sound effects were handled primarily by Floyd Caton.

In 1947 Abbott and Costello moved the show to ABC (the former NBC Blue Network). During their time on ABC, the duo also hosted a 30-minute children’s radio program (The Abbott and Costello Children’s Show), which aired Saturday mornings, featuring child vocalist Anna Mae Slaughter and child announcer Johnny McGovern.

Lou and wife Anne Battler

Both Abbott and Costello met and married women they knew in burlesque. Bud Abbott married Betty Smith in 1918, and Lou Costello married Anne Battler in 1934. The Costellos had four children; the Abbotts adopted two.

Abbott and Costello faced personal demons at times. Both were inveterate gamblers and had serious health problems. Abbott suffered from epilepsy and turned to alcohol for pain management. Costello had occasional, near-fatal bouts with rheumatic fever. On November 4, 1943, the same day that Costello returned to radio after a one year layoff due to his illness with rheumatic fever, his infant son “Butch” (born November 6, 1942) died in an accidental drowning in the family’s swimming pool.

During 1945, a rift developed when Abbott hired a domestic servant who had been fired by Costello. Angered by Abbott’s decision, Costello refused to speak to his partner except when performing. The team’s films of 1946 reflect the split, with the comedians appearing separately in character roles. Abbott resolved the rift in 1947 when he volunteered to help with Costello’s pet charity, a foundation for underprivileged children.

The Legendary Fred Allen

In the 1950s Abbott and Costello’s popularity waned as their place as filmdom’s hottest comedy team was taken by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  Universal dropped the comedy team in 1955, and after one more independent film, Bud Abbott retired from performing.

In 1956, the Internal Revenue Service charged them for back taxes, forcing them to sell their homes and most of their assets, including their film rights. In 1957 they formally dissolved their partnership.

Lou Costello made about ten solo appearances on The Steve Allen Show and headlined in Las Vegas. He appeared in episodes of GE Theater and Wagon Train. On March 3, 1959, shortly after making his lone solo film, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, Lou Costello died of a heart attack just short of his 53rd birthday.

Grave of Louis Frances Cristillo

A depressed Bud Abbott attempted a comeback in 1960, teaming with Candy Candido. Although the new act received good reviews, Bud quit, saying, “No one could ever live up to Lou.”

Abbott made a solo appearance on an episode of GE Theater in 1961. In 1966 Bud voiced his character in a series of 156 five-minute Abbott and Costello cartoons made by Hanna-Barbera. Lou’s character was voiced by Stan Irwin. Bud Abbott died of cancer on April 24, 1974.

 

The Abbott & Costello Show, The Baseball Player including the iconic ‘Who’s on First’ from the 17th April 1947
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The Abbott and Costello Show can be heard on the American Comedy Channel at the following times:

Every weekday at 04:00 GMT
Saturday at 16:00 GMT
Sunday at 08:00 GMT

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