The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)

Based on the novel by Jack Bickham, this was the first movie to team up Don Knotts and Tim Conway, who grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia and Willoughby, Ohio respectively, and became beloved for their goofy comedic skills. In fact, Conway was the sidekick to Cleveland’s original Ghoulardi — Eric Anderson, later the voice of ABC and father of Paul Thomas — and would even come back home to appear on Hoolihan and Big Chuck and Big Chuck and Lil’ John.

Gamber Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby) has agreed to sign for some valuables from an old associate named John Whintle. Turns out they’re three orphans named Bobby, Clovis and Celia Bradley, a bunch of kids who destroy so much that they make Donovan poor. Soon, he’s nearly robbed by Knotts and Conway, who have left their gang after accidentally shooting Slim Pickens in the leg. Hijinks ensure involving a gold mine and bandits.

Only Knotts and Conway would come back for The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, along with Harry Morgan who plays a different character. Disney also made a TV movie called Tales of the Apple Dumpling Gang, which had John Bennett Perry in Bixby’s part, Ed Begley Jr. instead of  Conway and Arte Johnson in the Knotts role. They also made a six episode TV series, Gun Shy, with Barry Van Dyke in the Bixby part.

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