Hold That Ghost

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 horror comedy film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello and featuring Joan Davis, Evelyn Ankers, and Richard Carlson. 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), gas station attendants, aspire to better jobs waiting tables at Chez Glamour, a high-class nightclub, where Ted Lewis and The Andrews Sisters perform. However, Chuck and Ferdie cause a ruckus and wind up back at the gas station. Gangster "Moose" Mattson (William B. Davidson) brings his car in for servicing, and Chuck and Ferdie are caught inside the vehicle when the gangster speeds off to escape the police. During the chase shots are exchanged, and the gangster is killed by gunfire. However, through a strange clause in his will--which says that whoever is with him when he dies will get whatever he owns--Chuck and Ferdie inherit his rural tavern, the Forrester's Club. Mattson had also given a cryptic clue about a hidden stash of money, stating that he always kept it "in his head," but its existence and location remain a mystery.

Charlie Smith, an associate of Mattson's crooked attorney, arranges to accompany the boys on a freelance bus to the rundown tavern. The boys are unaware that Smith (Marc Lawrence) is a member of Moose's gang and has come along to secretly look for the money. The unscrupulous bus driver, however, abandons them and three other passengers--a doctor, a radio actress and a waitress--at the tavern.

As the night progresses, strange things happen. Smith disappears while searching the basement, and his corpse turns up unexpectedly several times. The water in the tavern is undrinkable. Ferdie's bedroom turns out to be rigged with hidden gambling equipment. The girls are scared by what appears to be a ghost. Two detectives show up but vanish soon after starting to investigate. Chuck and the doctor decide to search for the detectives while Ferdie examines a map to find the quickest route back to town. However, the candles on the table move mysteriously and scare Ferdie.

Ferdie eventually finds Moose's treasure hidden inside the stuffed moose head over the fireplace. Members of the gang (including the so-called detectives) appear and demand the money, leading to a chase through the tavern. Ferdie scares them off by making the sound of a police siren. The boys plan to fix up the tavern, and the doctor announces that the water they drank last night has therapeutic properties and Ferdie and Chuck should transform the tavern into a health resort and hire Ted Lewis and The Andrews Sisters to headline and the maitre d' who fired them at the start of the film now works for them as a waiter.


Actor Role
Bud Abbott Chuck Murray
Lou Costello Ferdinand Jones
Richard Carlson Dr. Jackson
Joan Davis Camille Brewster
Evelyn Ankers Norma Lind
Marc Lawrence Charlie Smith
Mischa Auer Gregory
Shemp Howard Soda Jerk
Russell Hicks Bannister (Matson's attorney)
William B. Davidson Moose Matson
Ted Lewis and his Orchestra Themselves
The Andrews Sisters Themselves
Milton Parsons Bus Driver
Harry Hayden Jenkins


Hold that Ghost (working title: Oh Charlie) was made immediately after Buck Privates, from January 21 through February 24, 1941 on a budget of $190,000. The film's release was delayed, however, so that Universal could hastily make and release a second Abbott and Costello service comedy, In the Navy.[2]

Since both service comedies prominently featured music and the Andrews Sisters, Universal put Oh Charlie back into production in May, 1941, to append the opening and closing of the film with musical performances and re-shoot other scenes for continuity purposes. This cost an estimated additional $200,000.[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 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.[2]

Home media

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. 1 2 Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  3. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0 p 57-58
  4. 1 2 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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