Classic Hollywood #63 – Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

When I was growing up there were only seven television channels to choose from in New York City. Many weekend mornings I found myself laughing at the antics of Abbott and Costello on WPIX, channel eleven. A lot of other kids at that time shared that love for the fast-talking comedy duo.

Not just their movies were shown, but also the Abbott and Costello TV show was broadcast regularly as well. If today’s generation knows anything about Abbott and Costello, it is almost certainly their famous “Who’s On First” baseball skit. Unfortunately Abbott and Costello and their wordplay humor are fading into history.

But if Abbott and Costello have faded, then ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his puppet Charlie McCarthy are forgotten.

In the 1930s and 40s Bergen and his puppet were stage, film and more confusingly huge radio stars.

How a ventriloquist, who you could not see on the radio moving or not moving his lips became one of America’s most popular entertainers is almost incomprehensible.

Bergen had his own radio program on NBC sponsored by Chase and Sanborn (coffee). Abbott and Costello were regular guests on the show in the early 1940s. With a live studio audience, the laughs were genuine and I guess that laughter carried over to the radio audience who found the ventriloquist and his alter-ego funny. You can listen to many of the programs on youtube and judge for yourself.

The date of our photograph is probably around 1942 based upon the youthful look of Lou Costello who is having his finger “bitten” by Charlie McCarthy.

Bergen’s radio career lasted from 1937 – 1957. He passed away in 1978 at the age of 75. Bergen’s daughter Candice Bergen (b. 1946)  carved out her own successful acting career, most notably as the star of the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown (1988-1998).

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