Tonight on MeTV- we bring back a hilarious haunting perfectly in tune with the pre-4th of July weekend-with a story that begins during the Revolutionary War and ends with ghosts plaguing a mansion in modern day (if your modern day is 1946) in an attempt to free their spirits from this earthly realm. This ghost story sets Lou Costello, as one of the earthbound spirits, against an ancestor of the colonial rat ( both played by Bud Abbott) who’s partially responsible for his fate- guaranteeing both of them the “Time of Their Lives”!
Back in 1780, we witness the arrival at the Danbury estate of one Horatio Prim-a bumbling but good-hearted tinker by trade. Horatio carries with him a letter of recommendation from the great General George Washington- which he plans to present to Tom Danbury , master of the estate, in an attempt to convince him to free Nora, an indentured housemaid who is Horatio’s own true love- making her a free woman- and free to become his wife! Alas- Danbury’s evil butler, the slimy Cuthbert, is Horatio’s rival for the fair Nora- and, upon hearing the plan, makes his own plan to keep the tinker from showing the letter to Danbury, in hopes of winning Nora for himself.
What Cuthbert doesn’t know is that Nora already has taken possession of the letter, and Horatio doesn’t have it! While Cuthbert carries out his heartless scheme, Nora happens to overhear Danbury revealing he is actually an enemy of the colonists, and plans to join another turncoat,Benedict Arnold, in a surprise attack against Washington’s army- but she is caught by her British sympathizer master. However, Nora isn’t the only one who overheard the dastardly plan- Danbury’s beautiful fiancee Melody has also learned of the scheme, and her loyalty to the common good of America is greater than that to her intended.Heartbroken but resolute, she plans to ride and warn the army. As she prepares to go, Danbury, having taken Horatio’s letter from Nora, hides it safely in the secret compartment of a mantle clock.
Melody, in the barn preparing for her midnight ride, encounters Horatio, who has escaped from Cuthbert’s trap- and convinces him to join her. They ride off, but are mistaken for traitors by their own troops arriving at the estate -and shot! Their bodies are disposed of down the estate’s well, while the troops and angry patriots ransack the estate and set it ablaze.
We see the decades pass- finally arriving at the 1940s. Along the passage of time, the Danbury estate has been rebuilt, restored to its former grandeur, complete with the original furnishings taken before the place burned to the ground. Horatio and Melody become all too aware of their fate- they are now ghosts, condemned to virtual imprisonment on the grounds of the estate, unable to leave and proceed to the afterlife unless they are proven innocent of being traitors to Washington and America. They may be spiritual tenants, but new physical tenants have arrived as well- the earnest young Sheldon Gage with his fiancee, plus her aunt- a typical 40s wise-cracking dame. Also dropping in is Sheldon’s psychiatrist (please note: it seems the reason for his having a psychiatrist has been removed from the film – you’ll notice a jump cut in the scene where they first enter the house and discuss the psychiatrist’s impending arrival- perhaps the film censors felt any hint of mental illness was unbecoming the young hero). Horatio gets quite a shock when he sees the psychiatrist-who not only is a descendant of his sneaky nemesis Cuthbert- but also looks exactly like him! Horatio and Melody decide, since they are ghosts, they can use their unearthly powers to playfully put a scare into the manor’s new residents- with the exception of housekeeper Emily, a sensitive to the supernatural, who can sense the spirits’ presence!
Horatio and Melody deduce that Danbury would have hidden the prized letter somewhere, and begin to search the furnishings for the Washington document which can finally set them free. It comes down to a seance,aided by Emily’s psychic power, to reveal to the new tenants just who is haunting them-and where to find the letter that will set things right! Will Cuthbert’s ancestor stand in the way- or will other earthly roadblocks keep the two ghosts from finally reaching the hereafter?
This charming ghost story, as I said, most appropriate as we approach the birthdate of our nation, is of interest as it is one of the few features with Lou (as Horatio) and Bud ( as Cuthbert and his psychiatrist descendant) as opposing individuals, and not as a team! Lou teams with a different partner in this film, Marjorie Reynolds, as his “straight woman”and fellow ghost. We’ll go over the stories that supposedly reveal why the boys were not a team in this film (and the word of an expert who disputes them). As usual, we’ll give some background on the cast, including Gale Sondergaard playing a role similar to others we’ve seen her play-as well as popular actress of the era Binnie Barnes. This movie is a little longer than the average time of films we present, but we’ll limit our Sven on-camera time to minimize editing of the movie.
“Time of Their Lives” appears tonight on MeTV at 10 pm eastern/pacific, 9 central, or check your local listings (or at www.metv.com) for channel and time in your area. In the Chicago viewing area, WCIU, the U, will give our fans a second look at the sci fi classic “This Island Earth” at 11 am. Don’t forget that MeTV invites you to join in the live-Tweeting on Twitter tonight during our program- just use the hashtag #svengoolie and join in the fun- but PLEASE- don’t let that keep you from giving your full attention to our program! You can follow me on Twitter as well- my verified account is @svengoolie .
Join us for the fun tonight- and please enjoy the 4th this upcoming week- celebrate safely- we’d prefer you don’t end up as a third party to Horatio and Melody in the ghost patrol!