Joe Kirk

Active - 1941 - 1956  |   Born - Oct 1, 1903 in New York, NY  |   Died - Apr 16, 1975 in Los Angeles, CA  |   Genres - Comedy, Crime, Drama

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Joe Kirk was seldom more than a supporting actor -- and usually a bit player -- in feature films, but he left an indelible mark on 1950s television comedy, through his association with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. That association was partly professional and largely personal, as he was Costello's brother-in-law. Some sources credit Kirk with film appearances as far back as the mid-'30s in movies such as Circle of Death and The Taming of the West, but his main body of movie work began at around the same time that Abbott & Costello first arrived in Hollywood in 1940. His early appearances weren't in their comedies (though that would soon change) but, rather, in the movies of the East Side Kids at Monogram, specifically Spooks Run Wild, Mr. Wise Guy, Smart Alecks, and Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc., usually as gangsters and thugs who had little more to do than stand there and look menacing in a group. He began appearing in his brother-in-law's movies with Pardon My Sarong (1942). Usually in small roles and often as gangsters and henchmen with occasional comic bits and once in a while advancing the plot, it wasn't until Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953) that Kirk got a featured scene; in a comic slapstick battle of wits (or half-wits) with Lou Costello. By that time, Abbott & Costello had already given Kirk the role by which he would become best known, as Mr. Bacciagalupe on The Abbott & Costello Show. With his phony moustache and broken English, Kirk was a masterpiece of politically incorrect characterization, but also extremely funny in his slapstick interactions with Costello, usually batting Costello around the set in one way or other. Most of the rest of Kirk's career was as a general purpose actor, playing a succession of clerks, police officers, workers, and character roles in films by directors as different as Jean Yarbrough's (Hot Shots) and Fritz Lang's (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt). He retired in 1956, around the same time that Abbott & Costello split up and their respective careers ended.

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