Abbott and Costello, Charles Laughton and the Gettysburg Address


Last Thursday, the same day of the week that Lincoln originally gave the speech, marked the 152nd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  On April 6, 1952, comedy titans Abbott and Costello were hosting the Colgate Comedy Hour.  They had as their guest star Charles Laughton, one of the greatest English actors of the first half of the last century.  Amazingly enough the comedy duo and Laughton were co-starring at the time in the forgettable Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd.

This was back in the days of live television, and the sheer spontaneity made this brief period of television magic.  As was the case when Laughton, who had given a stunning rendition of the Gettysburg Address in the movie Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), recites the Address before a visibly moved Abbott and Costello.  Both Abbott and Costello were patriots.  Too old, Abbott was 44 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and sick, heart problems and epilepsy afflicted Costello, for military service in World War II, they threw themselves into war bond drives and sold more bonds than any other entertainers.  In one heartbreaking incident they performed at a bond drive immediately after the death of Costello’s infant son, the shattered Costello giving the huge audience no hint of the tragedy that had just befallen him and his wife.   They had done their bit to ensure “that government of the people, by the people and for the people would not perish from the Earth” and for them the Address was no mere artifact from long ago but a magnificent expression of what this country means. 



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  1. The June 19, 2015 version:

    (Dr. Guy McClung addressed the San Antonio City Council during the Citizens to Be Heard session on June 17th, 2015.)

    Council Members and (newly elected) Mayor Taylor, thank you for the courtesies you have shown me when I have spoken to you in the past and thank you for this opportunity to speak to you this evening. Mayor Taylor, the pro-life voters of San Antonio have elected you out of hope. This is why the pastors and priests of San Antonio, the Texas Leadership Coalition, the San Antonio Family Association and others endorsed (and supported) you, in hope that you will remain the voice of families in San Antonio and that you will become a strong effective voice for all the children of San Antonio, including San Antonio’s unborn children.

    It is the pro-life vote that handed you this victory. Your opponent’s hypocrisy in calling herself a Roman Catholic and then by her official actions and words subverting the teaching of her own Church were clear to the pro-life voters. Her key support of Wendy Davis did not go unnoticed; nor did the clear applicability to her of Jesus’ own words “hypocrite.”

    The 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision held that Dred Scott, his wife, and their unborn child were not human beings, but were property to be bought and sold. Ironically Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Democrat, born on a tobacco slave plantation, former slave owner, who handed down the Dred Scott decision, was also a Roman Catholic. Abraham Lincoln and the US Congress not only defied Taney and the Supreme Court, they refused to obey the decision. And then we had a Civil War over this. In the summer of 1863 in the costliest of battles in terms of loss of life, over 50,000 soldiers from both sides died at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If we continue in San Antonio, the number of dead children here will exceed the number of dead at Gettysburg. In the Fall of 1863 President Lincoln went to dedicate a cemetery to the dead soldiers. The words he spoke there have become known as the “Gettysburg Address.” Here is The San Antonio Address:
    The San Antonio Address

    (In Honor of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)

    Almost a dozen score years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal, and founded on the principle that they are all endowed by their Creator with the inalienable right to life.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil conflict, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met at great battlefields of that conflict, in San Antonio, the city with the new killing chambers of Planned Parenthood, with the final solutions of Whole Women’s Health Services, and the death dealers of Alamo Women’s Reproductive Center. We have come to dedicate a portion of this city as the final resting place of thousands of innocent children; to dedicate their unmarked graves, the dumpsters, the toilets, the biological waste incinerators, and the garbage cans that receive their remains. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate , we cannot hallow the ground here in San Antonio where they have died and where more will die. The dead children, who struggle, suffer, cry out with silent screams, and die here have consecrated it and will consecrate it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

    The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget that they have been and will continue to be killed here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which the children who die here have thus far so nobly advanced, the work they have begun in their small way, dying with their tiny voices unheard. But we will hear them.

    It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead children we take increased devotion to that cause for which they give the last full measure of devotion, that we here insure that no more children’s lives are taken in this city of St. Anthony, St. Anthony who was gifted to hold the infant Jesus in his arms . That we here highly resolve that these dead children, and all the dead children of America shall not die in vain in this American Holocaust– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, including all the people, even the smallest people now warm and happy within their mothers’ wombs, that this nation, these people, and these children shall not perish from the earth.

  2. Two HUGE sentiments of thanks go out two Guy and Donald.
    The clip stirred my heart. Excellent delivery.
    The San Antonio Address as well is a poignant reminder of the continuation of a civil war.
    Guy. You are blessed and have blessed us with your Faith.
    Thanks and a many Happy Thanksgiving to your loved ones. For the unborn, a prayer at your gatherings. For the living, a prayer of gratitude.

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