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The Naughty Nineties is a 1945 film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. It is significant for containing perhaps the best-known recorded rendition of the team's classic "Who's on First?" routine, as it is this version of the routine that is shown at the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in Cooperstown.


The time is the 1890s, and Captain Sam (Henry Travers), owner of the showboat River Queen, is travelling from port to port along the Mississippi River, bringing his entertainment to each town. During one stop, in the river town of Ironville, he meets up with three individuals, Crawford (Alan Curtis), Bonita (Rita Johnson), and Bailey (Joe Sawyer), who are hiding from the local sheriff. Against the advice of his daughter Caroline (Lois Collier), his lead actor Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott), and his chief roustabout Sebastian Dinwiddle (Lou Costello), the Captain joins them for a card game at a local gambling house.

The Captain is fed drink after drink until he is intoxicated and gets involved in a crooked card game where he loses controlling interest in the show boat to Bonita and Crawford. They use their newfound power to turn the showboat into a floating gambling casino with every game rigged in their favor. Dexter and Sebastian help the captain regain ownership of his vessel and oust the unwanted criminals.

Who's on First?

  • The "Who's on First?" routine was intended to be much earlier in the film; Costello begins by saying to Abbott, "When we get to St. Louis...", but by this point in the film, they are already docked there.
  • The only baseball defensive position not mentioned in this version is right field.
  • The camera crew can be heard laughing in the background during the routine.
  • The line, "Who's on First?" made it at number ninety-one on American Film Institute's 100 Movie Quotes.

Other routines

  • Besides the above-mentioned "Who's on First?" routine, this film contains the "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" routine, where Costello is singing during an audition while Abbott is shouting directions to the crew to change the location of the backdrop curtain. Costello believes the directions are for him and he follows them, by singing higher or lower, or even on one foot.
  • There is also the "Feathers in the Cake" routine, where Costello accidentally bakes feathers into a cake and the pieces are fed to everyone in the saloon. When they all take a bite, they wind up coughing up the feathers until the whole room is filled with them.
  • The "Mirror Scene", where Costello and Sawyer mirror each other's actions can also be seen in the 1933 Marx Brothers film, Duck Soup.
  • The scene where Costello wrestles with a real bear, thinking that he's wrestling Bud in a bear suit. Bears were commonly used in Abbott and Costello comic routines. They also appeared on screen along with Abbott and Costello in their films Ride 'Em Cowboy; Hit the Ice; Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff; Jack and the Beanstalk and Lost in Alaska.


  • It was filmed from January 15, 1945 through March 1, 1945.
  • The riverboat was originally constructed for the 1936 Universal musical Show Boat.
  • On May 13, 1945, during filming of their next film, Abbott and Costello in Hollywood for MGM Pictures, Abbott and Costello returned to Universal for reshoots on this film.


It was re-released in 1950 along with One Night in the Tropics, which also contained the "Who's on First?" routine.

DVD Release

This film has been released twice on DVD. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume Two, on May 4, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.


  1. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0

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