THE NAUGHTY NINETIES was Abbott & Costello’s 15th movie, one of three in 1945, and lodged 79th place, their popularity sharply down-turned from a few short years before. It’s (if you like them) pretty good, and highlighted by a great version of “Who’s On First?”.
A genial riverboat captain (Henry Travers) is hoodwinked by a trio of gamblers, who turn his boat into a den of shady swindles. His lead performer, ‘Dexter Broadhurst’ (Abbott) and blundering stagehand ‘Sebastian Dinwiddle’ (Costello) seek to rectify the fraud.
Forgettable songs slow the 76 minutes, directed by Jean Yarbrough, but the production is smooth and a team of writers provide some good sight gags to go with the A&C routines, which include a silly-fun bit about catfish cakes (Costello thinking they’re made from cats) and wrestling with a bear (Lou trying to yank off its head, thinking its a guy in a costume).
“Who’s on First” gets a deluxe treatment. They’d first done it on stage in 1936, then radio two years later, and in abbreviated form in their first movie gig, 1940s One Night In The Tropics. They mastered at least 20 versions of this signature spin: this is generally considered the best. “I throw the ball to Naturally“.
With Alan Curtis, Rita Johnson, Joseph Sawyer and Lois Collier, a busy B-actress of the day, who in the previous year had logged appearances in Weird Woman, Cobra Woman and Jungle Woman.