They were Dumb and Dumber decades before Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and to a kid growing up in the 1970’s, they were comedy gods: Don Knotts and Tim Conway, the bumbling comic team that starred together in several 70’s and early 80’s comedies (and built successful solo careers as well). The Apple Dumpling Gang marked the first time the two had worked together on the big screen, a live-action comedy for then-struggling Dinsey.
Old West gambler Russell Donovan (played by Bill Bixby) wins more than he bargained for when he’s forced to care for three rambunctious kids. Looking for help, he arranges a convenience marriage to spunky stage driver Magnolia Dusty Clydesdale. The kids prove they may be worth more than it first seemed when gold is discovered in a mine they inherited. A discovery like this can’t go unnoticed for long, and soon the gold-crazy townspeople are converging on the site.
Knotts and Conway play Theodore Ogelvie and Amos Tucker, incompetent outlaws with eyes on the gold but soft spots in their hearts for the kids. When rotten-to-the-core bandit Frank Stillwell and his gang show up, Theodore and Amos side with the kids, leading to a slapstick showdown.
If ever there were outlaws that didn’t inspire fear, these were those outlaws. After the success of their wide-eyed, bumbling shenanigans iin the first film, Tim Conway and Don Knotts got a chance to carry a picture of their own in the 1979 comedy sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again.
In place of the first film’s three cute orphans, this more maturely-plotted Dumpling finds some actual grown-ups in jeopardy. Private Reed and his boss Major Gaskill are in a spot of trouble because an evil lieutenant wants to disrupt things at the nice, orderly cavalry fort they call home. Thank goodness for Amos and Theodore, because in their garden of comedy high jinks, bad guys and bad guy schemes can’t really grow. Amos and Theodore may not inspire fear, but creating havoc and inadvertently saving the day…these things they do very well indeed.
Conway and Knotts re-teamed for a few more comedy features, including The Private Eyes in 1980, but alas, the Apple Dumpling Gang’s riding days were over.
This pot originally appeared on the long defunct website, Yesterdayland. We archive it here so it’s not lost to history.