|Intro||Writer who was associated with Abbott and Costello|
|Was||Screenwriter Writer Novelist Film producer|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature|
|Birth||27 December 1891, Tarentum, USA|
|Death||19 November 1955, Palm Desert, USA (aged 63 years)|
John Grant (December 27, 1891 – November 19, 1955) was a comedy writer best known for his association with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Costello called him their "chief idea man". Grant contributed to Abbott and Costello's radio, film and live television scripts, as well as the films of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Ma and Pa Kettle.
Although he appeared in a few legitimate musical comedies, Grant was primarily a burlesque comedian, straight man and producer. He performed in shows on the Columbia and Mutual Burlesque wheels in the 1920s, and at Minsky's in the early 1930s. His second wife, Dorothy Maye, was a strip tease artist.
Abbott and Costello
Grant met Bud Abbott in burlesque in the early 1920s when Abbott was still working in theater box offices. Grant met Lou Costello while working for Mutual as a general manager and trouble shooter; he cut Costello's salary during the Great Depression. Two years later, according to Hedda Hopper, he and Costello met again when the latter was appearing on a bill at a Brooklyn theatre; Abbott was also appearing there and Grant suggested that they team up. They did and were an immediate success. (This story is inconsistent with the most frequently cited version of events, where the team first performed together at the Eltinge Theater in 1935 and teamed nearly a year later.)
Abbott and Costello spent the next two years playing burlesque, vaudeville, and the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. In 1938 they were booked on the Kate Smith radio program. After several appearances they hired Grant, who was working in Toronto, to be their head writer. Grant contributed material for Abbott and Costello on radio, in films, and on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
Grant contributed to nearly every Abbott and Costello film by injecting comedy routines into stories written by other screenwriters. Most of his material would be included in the final film because he was the only writer Abbott and Costello trusted. He was also on the set during filming, and helped with ad-libbed material. In 1941 Hedda Hopper described Grant as "much more than the writer of those laugh jerkers that have zoomed the pair into box office tops; he's their friend, confidant and godfather, and the three of them are more like brothers than business associates."
Grant frequently modified established burlesque material, and other comedians sometimes claimed ownership. In October 1941 a former colleague of Grant's, Barney Gerard, sued claiming Abbott and Costello had plagiarised some of his routines.
In May 1943, with Abbott and Costello temporarily sidelined by Costello's illness, Grant was promoted to producer at Universal. The studio announced that he would produce a musical in color, Hip Hip Hooray. This became Bowery to Broadway (1944). Grant also received a producer credit on the Abbott and Costello films Here Come The Co-Eds and The Naughty Nineties (both 1945).
Firing and Re-hiring
During the Red Hysteria of the early 1950s, Lou Costello became convinced there was a communist conspiracy to infiltrate the film industry and demanded that his employees sign a loyalty oath swearing that they had no Communist ties. Grant refused to sign and Costello fired him. Grant did not work on Lost in Alaska. Grant was never blacklisted and worked for Martin and Lewis on Sailor Beware. He also did Double Crossbones (1951) with Donald O'Connor and Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (1951). Costello felt that the script for Lost in Alaska suffered because of Grant's absence and rehired him for Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd and subsequent films.
Grant's later screenplay credits include Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953); Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953); Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955); and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). Grant was credited on a film originally written for Abbott and Costello, Fireman Save My Child (1954), which was made with Hugh O'Brien and Buddy Hackett when Costello became ill.
Grant died of a heart attack on 19 November 1955 in Palm Desert, California. He was survived by his wife, Dorothy; his brother and three sisters; and two daughters from his first marriage.
Grant's love of burlesque and vaudeville was passed down to his daughters. He also inspired his great-grandson, Ken Drab, who in 2008 became created a webcomic artist and has authored and illustrated several children's books.
- One Night in the Tropics (1941) - uncredited
- Buck Privates (1941)
- In the Navy (1941)
- Hold That Ghost (1941)
- Keep 'Em Flying (1941)
- Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942)
- Rio Rita (1942) - "special material"
- Pardon My Sarong (1942)
- Who Done It? (1942)
- It Ain't Hay (1943)
- Hit the Ice (1943)
- In Society (1944)
- Lost in a Harem (1944)
- Bowery to Broadway (1944) - producer only
- Here Come the Co-eds (1945) - also producer
- The Naughty Nineties (1945) - also producer
- The Time of Their Lives (1946)
- Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
- The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
- The Noose Hangs High (1948)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
- Mexican Hayride (1948)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)
- Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
- Double Crossbones (1951)
- Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)
- Sailor Beware (1952) - additional dialogue
- The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952-55)(TV Series)
- Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (1952)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
- Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
- Fireman Save My Child (1954)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)