Two of America’s most beloved funnymen, Tim Conway and Don Knotts, had appeared plenty of times together on television, but it wasn’t until 1975 that they began starring together in feature-length comedy films. Their first foray was as a pair of bumbling crooks in The Apple Dumpling Gang, one of the biggest live-action successes for the Walt Disney Company in the 70s decade.
Based upon a 1971 novel by Jack Bingham, The Apple Dumpling Gang was set in the old west, in the town of Quake City, CA and starred Bill Bixby as Russel Donavan, a notorious gambler who finds himself the guardian of three orphaned children. Unable to care for them himself, he quickly arranges a marriage of convenience with a stagecoach driver named Magnolia Dusty Clydesdale. The arrangement pays off handsomely when the kids unwittingly find gold in a nearby mine.
As one might expect, gold fever spreads like wildfire to the local residents, including two utterly incompetent outlaws named Theodore Ogelvie (Knotts) and Amos Tucker (Conway). While their motives may initially be criminal, they cannot help but develop a soft spot for the lovable orphans and they end up helping the kids defend their treasure from some real criminals, Frank Stillwell and his gang, leading up to a comical slapstick showdown of epic proportions.
Disney had a respectable hit on their hands, thanks to some wonderful casting that included Harry Morgan and Slim Pickens as bandit Frank Stillwell. Knotts and Conway would team up again in 1979 for the sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, as well as a number of other non-Disney films, but this is perhaps their most endearing and successful pairing.
If you have fond memories of watching the comic antics of these two master funnymen in The Apple Dumpling Gang, we hope you’ll share them in our comments section, as we tip our hats to a Disney classic, here at Retroland.