Joe Kirk (New York, New York, October 1, 1903 - Los Angeles, California, April 16, 1975) was an American radio, film, and television actor who was best known for playing the role of Mr. Bacciagalupe on The Abbott and Costello Show.
Early life and career
Born Ignazio Curcuruto (simply known by his pet name Nat Curcuruto to his family), Kirk was born in New York City as one of four children - Letitia, Philip (1902 - 1995), Nat (1903 - 1975), and Josephine - to the Sicilian American immigrants Giuseppe "Joe" Curcuruto and Elvira Puglisi Curcuruto (1882–1977).
Kirk was a regular voice actor on Abbott and Costello's radio show during the World War II and post-war era of the 1940s. In addition to his ongoing - and best-known role - as Mr. Bacciagalupe, the highly excitable Italian neighbor, Kirk played many other bit parts on the show as well.
As Mr. Bacciagalupe, Kirk spoke with a thick Sicilian-American accent; his surname as well was pronounced in the Sicilian manner (BAH-chə-gah-LOOP) and not in proper Italian (BAH-chah-gah-LOOP-e). When excited, Mr. Bacciagalupe frequently made improvised asides in Sicilian dialect, which were obviously appreciated by many in the audience. Lou Costello, who was Italian American himself, also understood these side-remarks, and sometimes could not stay in character, but laughed along as well.
In 1951, Kirk brought the popular role of Mr. Bacciagalupe to the television version of The Abbott and Costello Show. Kirk’s friendly, mustachioed character held a variety of jobs. At various points in the show, he was a barber, grocer, fruit vendor, ice cream vendor, peanut vendor, bakery owner, and music store salesman.
In the episodes featuring his character, Mr. Bacciagalupe would often show impatience with the indecision portrayed by Lou Costello, whom he called by his Sicilian name, Luigi. As he "lost his temperature", Mr. Bacciagalupe would lapse into broken Sicilian phrases and increasingly animated gesticulation to express his frustration. Sometimes he would find his place of business wrecked by Abbott and Costello’s slapstick antics; at other times he would confound them completely and they would retreat in confusion as he crowed in triumph.
Kirk's Mr. Bacciagalupe appeared in 15 of the 26 episodes in the show's first season, 1951-1952. In all, he appeared in 19 episodes of the show's 52 total episodes through its end in 1954.
The bulk of Joe Kirk’s early film career consisted of playing bit parts, often uncredited, in low budget productions. Typical roles for him were "ethnic" Sicilian-Americans - gangsters, bartenders, bookies, and henchmen. He appeared in several films produced at Monogram Pictures, including Spooks Run Wild (1941), Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941), Mr. Wise Guy (1942), and Smart Alecks (1942). Kirk appeared as the villager Schwartz in Universal's "House Of Frankenstein" (1944). He was occasionally billed as Joseph I. Kirk, the "I" standing for his birth-name, Ignazio.
Through his marriage to Marie Cristillo, the sister of Lou Costello, Kirk secured steady appearances (albeit in small roles) in Abbott and Costello films. His more prominent parts included the pet shop owner in Rio Rita (1942), Honest Dan the Bookie in Here Come the Co-Eds (1946), the shady real estate agent in Buck Privates Come Home (1947),uncredited by-stander in "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) and Dr. Orvilla in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953).
Kirk continued acting through the late 1950s, with appearances in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), the 1956 Bowery Boys comedy Hot Shots and Fritz Lang’s drama Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). He also took small roles in television shows such as Adventures of Superman, Sheriff of Cochise and U.S. Marshal, before retiring from show business in 1958.
Kirk was married to Marie Katherine Cristillo (1912–1988), who was the sister of Lou Costello and daughter of the producer Sebastian Cristillo. After their marriage Marie was known interchangeably as both Marie Curcuruto and Marie Kirk. The couple had two sons.
- Mulholland, Jim. “The Abbott and Costello Book.” 1977, Popular Library
- AllMovie Guide profile/New York Times