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
Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) August 6, 1941 (1941-08-06)
Running time 85 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $190,000

Hold That Ghost is a 1941 comedy horror[1] 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 happen to be inside the vehicle when the gangster speeds off to escape police, who are searching for him. 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, but 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 everyone, one of the passengers, Charlie Smith (Marc Lawrence) is a member of Moose's gang, and wants to search the tavern for a hidden money stash. (Moose did give one rather cryptic clue as to the money's location, by stating that he always kept his money "in his head").

As the night progresses, strange things begin to happen, while Charlie is looking for the money in the basement, he disappears. While upstairs, everyone is curious where Charlie went. Chuck, Ferdie, and Doc look for Charlie. While the men look for Charlie the two girls are frightened by a pair of glowing eyes.

When everyone goes to bed, Ferdie finds a hidden door, when he closes it, Charlie's corpse falls to the floor. Everyone begins to panic and two detectives show up. They go back to Charlie's corpse, it is gone. The detectives began to investigate and vanish.

Chuck and Ferdie find a hidden bedroom. When Ferdie puts his pants on a hanger, the room turns into a gambling room. When Chuck comes to see the room and it turns back to the bedroom and Chuck doesn't believe Ferdie and they switch rooms. Once again the bedroom turns into a gambling room and when Ferbie shows Chuck it turns back to a bedroom.

One of the girls goes downstairs for some warm milk. And gets scared from 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 Ferbie's room and the ghost disappears, leaving only a sheet. Chuck and Doc decide to go 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.

When everyone counts the money, members of Moose's gang come and demand the money. Everyone denies and the gangsters attack everyone. Ferbdie takes the money and gets chased by a few gangsters. When Ferdie gets back downstairs, he tosses the bag to Chuck and Ferdie runs out back. Then everyone hears sirens and the gang flees. Chuck runs to the door, revealing that Ferdie made siren noises to frighten the gangsters.

While Chuck and Ferdie split the money evenly, Doc tells the boys that the water hey drank last night and 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. Ferdie tries to take some of the money, but is caught by Chuck when he counts the money they made from the opening night.


Hold that Ghost was filmed from January 21 through February 24, 1941 under the working title Oh Charlie. Additional filming occurred on May 13, to append the nightclub scenes with Ted Lewis and The Andrews Sisters.

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.

It was the idea of screenwriters Bob Lees and Fred Rinaldo to spoof two popular film genres of the era (the Haunted House movie and Gangster melodrama) simultaneously.


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


Upon the film's release it received mostly positive reviews. The New York Times considered the film "immensely funny", but criticized it's 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."[2]

The film still receives mainy favorable reviews. Ted Okuda called the film "one of the team's best." Jim Mulholland has descirbed it as the "team's best film next to Buck Privates"[2] In addition, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on five reviews.[3] Allmovie contributer, 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."[4] Film critic, Leonard Maltin, gave the film three out of four stars and noted it as "Prime A&C."[5]


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

DVD releaseEdit

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. Miller, Jeffrey S. (2000). Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films. McFarland & Company. p. 162. ISBN 0-7864-1922-9. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 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. 
  3. "Hold That Ghost (Oh, Charlie) Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  4. Erickson, Hal. "Hold That Ghost > Overview - Allmovie". Allmovie. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  5. Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. p. 617. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9. 

External linksEdit