Classic Film Guide

Time of Their Lives, The (1946) - full review!

Directed by Charles Barton, an Academy Award winning assistant director for Paramount, and written by Val Burton, Walter DeLeon, John Grant, and Bradford Ropes, this is a different kind of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello film in that they don't work as a team in this one.

In fact, as the film opens in Revolutionary War times, the famous comedy duo is at odds over the same woman - a maid (Ann Gillis) which works on an estate for a wealthy family. Abbott plays Cuthbert, a butler working for the family, and Costello is a tinker who is in her favor. Costello has just returned from a trip where he assisted George Washington himself and is carrying a letter of recommendation for his services from the General. This is just what he needs to secure the maid's hand in marriage. The maid takes the letter to one of the family, Melody Allen played by Marjorie Reynolds, who then takes it to the head of the family who, unbeknownst to them, is plotting (with Benedict Arnold) to betray the Patriots to the British. The head of the family hides the letter in a piece of furniture. The Patriots have learned of the plot and raid the estate. Several comic events lead to Costello and Reynolds being mistaken for traitors, whereby they are shot and dumped down a well. They are then cursed to remain on the estate until evidence can be shown that clears them.

Through a series of short montages, almost 200 years is shown to pass until present day (1946), and the estate has been historically restored inside and out to its original condition, furniture and all. Costello and Reynolds have been roaming the grounds all this time, but only make their presence "known" on July 4th each year, the time when picnicking locals read the sign of their curse on the well. The owner of the newly restored estate brings Binnie Barnes, Lynn Baggett, and Abbott, who is now playing a psychiatrist, Dr. Greenway, the great-great-great ... grandson of Cuthbert (hence the resemblance) to the estate for its grand opening. Of course, Costello and Reynolds visit the newly restored estate, recognizing its furniture et al. They also "haunt" the estate as they try to find a way to clear their names (e.g. locate the hidden letter). The similarity in appearance (and relationship) between Costello and Dr. Greenway adds to the comic opportunities inherent in the situation. Gale Sondergaard (Anthony Adverse (1936)) plays a maid who helps to bridge the gap between the ghosts and the estate's current occupants. Donald MacBride plays a police lieutenant who becomes involved in the exploits.

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