Monday, November 24, 2014

ANNE COSTELLO: TRAGIC WIFE OF A CLOWN

In the history of comedy, many of the funny people had life full of tragedy. One of the greatest funny men was Lou Costello. Unfortunately Costello had a lot of heart ache. Lou and his wife Anne suffered through the worst tragedy parents could suffer through - the loss of a child. I wanted to do some research into the life of Lou's wife Anne Costello. Anne was the second of three daughters born to William and Isabelle Battler of Glasgow, Scotland in 1912.

In 1920, at the age of eight, she and her father immigrated to the United States. Her father wanted to see if the country were a good place to live before sending for the rest of his family, and chose his middle daughter Hannah to join him. They settled in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, but only six months after their arrival her father came down with pneumonia, hastening the arrival from Scotland of her mother and two sisters. In America, the Battler sisters all changed their names; Hannah became Anne, her older sister Isabelle became Irene, and her younger sister Mary became Mayme.During her teenage years, Anne took up dancing, and also became a children's dance teacher. She and her older sister Irene, who was also a dancer, won numerous medals for their skill in Scottish dancing. In 1930, she decided to enter show business as a tap dancer. After starting out a dancing career in Providence, she moved to New York a year or two later to dance in the chorus line at the Republic Theater on Broadway, in the Ann Corio show 'This Was Burlesque.' Because of her diminutive size, Anne was dancing at the very end of the line, in the role of the "pony," the shortest performer in a chorus line.


There she met comic Lou Costello. She and Lou Costello, then working as a burlesque comic at the same theater, were mutual friends with Corio, who eventually persuaded her to say yes to going on a date with him. While waiting in the wings before their first date, Anne was hit on the head by a clothes tree Costello had knocked over when coming onstage, and from that moment on, they were a devoted couple. They were married on January 30, 1934 in Massachusetts, using her own mother's ring, as her new husband had forgotten Anne's own wedding ring.

Their first home was in Manhattan, and on weekends, her father-in-law would visit to give her lessons on Italian cooking. Not long after her wedding, Anne's career as a dancer was brought to an end when she and Costello were driving home from their theater and got into a very serious car accident, which broke Anne's neck and put her into a full body cast for months. After her dancing career came to an end, though, she switched all of her energy and focus into being a full-time wife and mother. She had four children, Patricia Ann (Paddy), born in 1936, Carole Lou, born in 1939, Louis, Jr. (Butch), born in 1942, and Christine (Chris), born in 1947. The family moved to Hollywood in 1940, eventually settling into a lavish mansion in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood.


Tragedy struck on November 4, 1943 when their only son Louis Jr drowned in their family pull. Anne blamed herself for her son drowning. She was on the phone at the time of the tragedy. It was felt that neither she nor her husband were ever the same afterwards. Anne also began having problems with drinking to deal with her grief and feelings of guilt. In 1954, due to problems with the IRS, she and her family had to give up their mansion and move into a ranch in Canoga Park. This move and the subsequent downgraded standard of living took a big emotional toll on her, though she tried to handle the situation the best she could for the sake of her family. Four years later, in 1958, she and her family, by this time only Anne, her husband, and their youngest daughter, moved again because they couldn't afford all of the taxes and upkeep on their ranch.

Their new home was an apartment in her old neighborhood of Sherman Oaks. Shortly after this move, she was hospitalized following a heart attack, and also started to develop asthma. In March of 1959, she was left a widow when Lou died of a heart attack, brought on by his longtime problems with rheumatic fever. Following her husband's death, she and her daughter Chris moved into another house in the neighborhood. The problems she had had with drinking had been increasing in recent years, and coupled with her grief over losing her husband as well as her son, took a large toll on her emotional and physical health that finally caught up to her. She died at the age of forty-seven. A sad end to the wife of a wonderful clown...




3 comments:

  1. Sad Indeed!

    I adored Abbot & Costello.

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  2. very tragic and very sad. I grew up with Abbot and Costello! they were my favorites!! nice writing!!

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  3. How sad! She died so young!

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