Hold That Ghost

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Hold That Ghost
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Burt Kelly
Glenn Tryon
Written by Robert Lees
Fred Rinaldo
John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Richard Carlson
Joan Davis
Evelyn Ankers
Shemp Howard
The Andrews Sisters
Music by H.J. Salter
Edited by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • August 6, 1941 (1941-08-06)
Running time 85 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget over $400,000[1]

Hold That Ghost is a 1941 comedy horror film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello and featuring Joan Davis, Evelyn Ankers, and Shemp Howard. On August 1, 1941, Abbott and Costello performed a live version of the film for radio audiences on Louella Parsons' Hollywood Premiere.


Chuck Murray (Bud Abbott) and Ferdie Jones (Lou Costello) work at a gas station, but long to move up to waiting tables at Chez Glamour, a high-class nightclub.

Opportunity comes their way and they find themselves working there. But on their very first night, they cause a disturbance and are fired, only to wind up working again at the gas station, when a gangster named "Moose" Matson (William Davidson) brings in his car for servicing. Chuck and Ferdie annoy the gangster by offering him various services of the gas station. Chuck and Ferdie happen to be inside the vehicle when the gangster speeds off to escape pursuing police. During the chase, the gangster is killed by gunfire, and through a strange clause in his will, Chuck and Ferdie inherit his tavern, Forrester's Club.

The lawyer in charge of the will arranges a private bus (actually just a large car) to take them to the rural tavern, where they arrive during a heavy thunderstorm. The driver abandons them and the other passengers there and takes off with everyone's luggage, a scheme that is known as the "wildcat bus racket". Unbeknownst to the other passengers, Charlie Smith (Marc Lawrence) is a member of Moose's gang, and has come to search the tavern for a hidden stash of money. (Moose had given a cryptic clue to the money's location, stating that he always kept his money "in his head").

As the night progresses, stranger and stranger things happen. While Charlie is looking for the money in the basement, he disappears. Upstairs, everyone is curious where Charlie went. While Chuck, Ferdie, and Doc look for Charlie the two women get frightened by a pair of glowing eyes.

After everyone goes to bed, Ferdie finds a hidden door. When he closes it, Charlie's corpse falls to the floor. Everyone panics and two detectives show up. They go to inspect Charlie's corpse, but it is gone. The detectives vanish soon after starting to investigate.

Chuck and Ferdie find a hidden bedroom. When Ferdie puts his pants on a hanger, the room turns into a casino. By the time Chuck comes to see the room, it has turned back into a mere bedroom and Chuck doesn't believe Ferdie, so they switch rooms. Once again the bedroom turns into a casino and when Ferdie goes to fetch Chuck, it turns back to a bedroom, and Ferdie storms out to find his own bedroom.

One of the women goes downstairs for some warm milk. And gets scared by a ghost. The ghost runs to Ferdie's room and hides in the bed. Ferdie runs to the staircase and tells everyone that the ghost is in his room. When everyone gets to Ferdie's room, the ghost has disappeared, leaving only a sheet. Chuck and Doc decide to search for the detectives and get out of the tavern. Chuck tells Ferdie to look at a map and find the quickest route back to town. In this especially funny scene, Ferdie stammers and shakes as he nervously describes to his disbelieving friends how a lit candle moves back and forth by itself on a table. Ferdie eventually finds Moose's treasure hidden inside a stuffed moose head.

While everyone is counting the money, members of Moose's gang come and demand the money. Everyone refuses and the gangsters attack. Ferdie takes the money and gets chased by a few gangsters. When Ferdie gets back downstairs, he tosses the bag to Chuck, then runs out back. The gang flees at the sound of police sirens. Chuck runs to the door, revealing that Ferdie had made the siren noises to frighten the gangsters.

While Chuck and Ferdie split the money evenly, Doc tells the boys that the water they drank last night can make the ill feel better. Ferdie and Chuck use the money to transform the tavern into a health resort. They hire Ted Lewis and His Orchestra, along with The Andrews Sisters, to headline. A musical number closes the film just as one opened it. The headwaiter that fired the boys in the opening scene is now employed by them and does not like this ironic twist of fate. Ferdie tries to take some of the money, but is caught by Chuck when he counts the money they made from the opening night.


Actor Role
Bud Abbott Chuck Murray
Lou Costello Ferdinand Jones
Richard Carlson Doctor Jackson
Joan Davis Camille Brewster
Evelyn Ankers Norma Lind
Marc Lawrence Charlie Smith
Mischa Auer Gregory
Shemp Howard Soda Jerk
Russell Hicks Bannister
William Davidson Moose Matson
Ted Lewis and his Orchestra Themselves
The Andrews Sisters Themselves
Harry Hayden Jenkins


Hold that Ghost was filmed from January 21 through February 24, 1941 under the working title Oh Charlie. This was originally budgeted at $190,000 but went up to over $200,000. Additional filming occurred on May 13, to append the nightclub scenes with Ted Lewis and The Andrews Sisters. This cost an estimated additional $200,000.[2]

Although the film was made prior to In the Navy, its release was delayed so that Universal could release another Abbott and Costello service-themed film to follow Buck Privates.[3]


Upon the film's release it received mostly positive reviews. The New York Times considered the film "immensely funny", but criticized its musical numbers and length. The Motion Picture Herald gave the film a very favorable review. Motion Picture Daily felt that it was Abbott and Costello's "corniest" and "best" comedy yet. The use of slapstick was praised by the New York Morning Telegraph, yet the publication thought "it should have been better Abbott and Costello."[4]

The film still receives mainy favorable reviews. Ted Okuda called the film "one of the team's best." Jim Mulholland has described it as the "team's best film next to Buck Privates"[4] In addition, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on five reviews.[5] Allmovie contributor, Hal Erickson, gave the film three out of a possible five stars and stated that the "moving candle" scene might be "Costello's funniest-ever screen scene."[6] Film critic, Leonard Maltin, gave the film three out of four stars and noted it as "Prime A&C."[7]


  • Hold that Ghost was re-released in theaters twice, in 1948 and 1949, along with Hit the Ice.[3]

Home media[edit]

This film has been released three times on VHS. Originally released in 1982 on VHS and Beta, it was re-released on VHS in 1988 and again in 1991.

This film has been released twice on DVD. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume One, on February 10, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.


  1. ^ Furmanek p 57-59
  2. ^ Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0 p 57-58
  3. ^ a b Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  4. ^ a b Miller, Jeffrey S. (2000). Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films. McFarland & Company. p. 163. ISBN 0-7864-1922-9. 
  5. ^ "Hold That Ghost (Oh, Charlie) Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  6. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Hold That Ghost > Overview - Allmovie". Allmovie. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  7. ^ Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. p. 617. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9. 

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