Lum and Abner in “Two Weeks to Live”


One of about a half dozen movie vehicles of the radio comedy team Lum and Abner (Chester Lauck and Norris Goff ), Two Weeks To Live (1943) is one of those strange animals that just wiggled though the cracks and fell out of the public’s consciousness. The low-key rural comedians, denzens of Pine Ridge, Arkansas were household names at the time. Nowadays a first encounter with this film can be a tad disorienting, especially since its sit-com plot (Abner inherits a railroad) seems to depend on prior knowledge of the Bugtusslesque characters and setting. But it’s an interesting curiosity and not without many funny lines and moments. Directed by Mal St. Clair, the plot has the boys selling stock shares in the inherited railroad, which of course turns out to be run-down and worthless. Their adventures take them to the big city (Chicago) where they encounter a nervous building manager (Franklin Pangborn) who is terrified they will sue him for an injury sustained in his skyscraper’s stairwell. But Lum and Abner are too backward to spy the potential profit in this line. Accidentally informed by a doctor that he has two weeks to live, Abner takes a succession of high paying “daredevil” jobs so the two can pay back the townfolk (led by the incomparable Charles Middleton.) Their scheme brings them in contact with a Dr. Jeckyl and his new potion, a gorilla trainer (and his gorilla), an air circus, a haunted house, terrorists, and a rocket to Mars. And for some reason, a poetical window washer with an invisible dog.

Turner Classic Movies is showing this comedy tomorrow morning 10:30 am. If you’d like a little background, here’s a link to the Lum and Abner Museum in the real Pine Ridge, Arkansas: And here’s a mess of Lum and Abner radio episodes:


For more on comedy history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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