One of Lou Costello’s last roles was a dramatic part in Wagon Train

It was the only serious character the legendary comedian ever played onscreen.

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Lou Costello was born March 6, 1906 in Paterson, NJ – a town he liked to mention every chance he could on The Abbot and Costello Show and in many of the iconic duo’s films.

After standing out both as a basketball player and a boxer in his youth, Costello decided to try to make it in showbusiness. He won a few background parts in silent films but when talkies began to take over, he transitioned to the vaudeville stage where he met Bud Abbott. Together they toured the country throughout the 1930s and stole the show in the first movie they appeared in, 1940’s One Night in the Tropics.

For the next 15 years, the pair were radio staples and made at least two movies a year. Their classic “Who’s on first?” routine is one of the most famous comedy bits of all time and their films facing off against the Universal Studios’ monsters lovingly lampooned the horror genre. 

Those horror parodies, and uncredited appearances in silent films, were the closest Lou Costello came to doing anything serious onscreen – until the very end of his career.

Costello plays the tragic title character in the Wagon Train episode “The Tobias Jones Story.” Though he is an uncontrollable drunk, Tobias has the heart to take care of a young orphan named Midge. The two outcasts stow away on the wagon train heading to California. After they are discovered, Major Adams has no choice but to let them stay. However, when another passenger is brutally murdered, all signs point to Tobias.

Costello gives a dramatic, heart-wrenching performance as Tobias Jones and his ability to gain sympathy from the audience, great for comedy, is even more valuable in this case.

Other guest stars in this episode include Peter Breck, years before he became Nick Barkley in The Big Valley, Morris Ankrum, who was a judge in over 20 Perry Mason episodes, and Beverly Washburn as Midge. Washburn would later play Enterprise crewmember Arlene Galway who aged rapidly in the Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years.”

“The Tobias Jones Story” first aired in October of 1958, six months before Lou Costello passed away at the age of 52. He will always be remembered as a hilarious comedian but his one chance at something more dramatic proved he could do much more than ask “Who’s on first?”

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JesseJames 6 days ago
My all time favorite movie of them is Abbot And Costello meet Frankenstein! It was the last time both Bela Logosi and Lon Chaney played their original horror characters and also together! I thought it was an all-around great little flick...FUN FACT....In that particular movie, Frankenstein was played by Glenn Strange, who would later play Sam the Bartender in Gunsmoke
MadMadMadWorld 12 days ago
When I was young, I remember reading a (small) headline in the newspaper, quote, "Passing of a Very Funny Man" on Mar. 4, 1959, the day after Lou shockingly died at only 52, on Mar. 3, only 3 days before what would have been his 53rd. Another of those sad Hollywood endings that should not have been. I remember seeing his last film, "The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock" starring him and Dorothy Provine, released in early Aug. 1959, shortly after his death. Dorothy was 24 (Jan. 20, 1935 birthdate) at the time of its filming. She died on Apr. 25, 2010, at 75. R.I.P. to both.
GeorgeSchmidt67 17 days ago
Costello (and Bud) had moments of pathos/drama in many of their films - I know of this ep. but have yet to find it all these years. The Boys are my fave entertainers of all-time.
KevinButler 17 days ago
Lou Costello was not a comedian..he was a clown.."A Clown is an actor"..Keenan Wynn..the son of Ed Wynn had said"A Comedian makes you laugh..and that it..he cannot play on your emotions..A Clown can make you cry"..Lou had the talent to make audiences laugh..but? He can also make audiences cry..hence..he had the talent to perform in drama and in comedy.
mdit21 18 days ago
He had the same birthday (not the year) as Mary Wilson.🙂
JERRY6 18 days ago
just watched the show , he sure had talent , sad he died so young
Maverick66 18 days ago
The article is spot on about Costello's ability to gain sympathy from the audience in this role. I never really thought of him as an actor - just as a comedian - until I saw him in this episode. He was impressive in Wagon Train and showed that he had a true range of ability.
denny 18 days ago
Just set my dvr for this, Just in case I forget it's on. I think I may have seen it but am not really sure. Thanks for the heads up.
Andybandit 18 days ago
I liked that episode of wagon train with Lou Costello in it.
Mike 18 days ago
You missed one of the other guest stars:
Harry Von Zell, the long-time announcer-comedy foil for George Burns and Gracie Allen.
And if you stick around for the credits, you learn that Harry Von Zell co-wrote "The Tobias Jones Story".
It was a custom job; most Wagon Train episodes were, tailor-made for the guest star of the week.
Lou Costello and Harry Von Zell were old friends from radio and stage; Harry knew what Lou could do, and was able to steer things to his strengths.
This was commonplace back in those TV days; it's what made so much of it so good - and why it still works to this day.
PSF65 Mike 17 days ago
I noticed Harry Von Zell as well. He was a very versatile TV personality, especially on the Burns and Allen Show. Lou Costello's performance was masterful and something to remember for those of us who appreciate real actors and real personalities. Ward Bond and John Wayne are amongst my favorite actors. May they Rest in Peace!
DethBiz 19 days ago
Dance with me Henry really wasn't one of Lou's typical comedy roles either. He was actually an underrated actor.
ironhelm 19 days ago
When can we watch full screen on our electronic devices?
LoveMETV22 19 days ago

I love the Who's on first? routine, especially on "The Rain Man.
daDoctah 19 days ago
Beverly Washburn also starred in "Spider Baby" alongside another co-star of Lou Costello's: Lon Chaney Jr.
lynngdance daDoctah 17 days ago
You are invited to my Connecting The Dots Quiz! Saturday 05/29/2021 at The Giant Gomer Pyle quiz at 8:00 PM! (Since it’s been like a century since I did a quiz, there will be two questions this time so it’ll be extra fun 😁 (hopefully 😜)
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