#4 Abbott & Costello Go to Mars (1953)
This one was on a lot of the Mardi Gras Movie lists online that I found, but I had never seen it. From reading those lists, I knew it was a movie that I had to see.
The plot is like a lot of Abbott and Costello movies: they bumble their way to success as Lou Costello goofs everything up and Bud Abbott straight-mans their way out of trouble.
Through some typical cartoon-worthy way, A&C inadvertently steal a rocketship that is, presumably, on its way to Mars. Instead of Mars, they land in the bayou outside New Orleans… during Mardi Gras. The city is in Mardi Gras mode, and the revelers are so weird to A&C that they think they are on Mars. Eventually, they realize they aren’t on Mars and they get back in the rocketship, along with two escaped convicts, and travel to Venus.
That’s really all the plot summary you need, because for our purposes here, it’s the Mardi Gras scenes we’re after.
What makes the scenes in this movie so valuable is that it depicts a Mardi Gras that has since vanished. For me, one of the most interesting parts is the revelers’ use of confetti.
Why? Confetti has been banned from Mardi Gras for years. I asked my uncle why it was banned and he said that everyone used to run around and throw confetti in the air all the time. Sometimes in people’s faces.
Also, the drains downtown run straight into the bay, so the city has gotten more stringent about litter downtown, though an interesting documentary could probably be made about the effects of tons of beads running into the bay.
In “Abbott & Costello Go to Mars”, everyone is constantly throwing confetti in the air. And everyone is dressed up with giant papier macheheads on, which is the main reason A&C think they are on Mars.
Check it out:
Here is a close-up shot of Costello (Orville in the film) talking to a “Martian”:
You also get some shots of some old-school Mardi Gras floats. I wish there were more shots like these, I would love to see a Mardi Gras parade from 1953:
I’m sure this was some wild stuff to audiences back in 1953. This was probably before a lot of people had televisions. I love seeing old footage and photos of Mardi Gras pre-television because the crowds are so dense. I’ve talked with older people who were around back then and they all say, “You didn’t miss a parade, back then.” I blame television.
Check back next week for Part 3 in The Top 5 Mardi Gras Movies, it features the history of some of the Mardi Gras societies, the good and bad.