The Apple Dumpling Gang
is a 1975 Disney
film about slick gambler Russel Donavan (played by Bill Bixby
) who is duped into taking care of a group of orphan children who eventually strike gold during the California Gold Rush
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jack Bickham. The eponymous gang is named after the American dessert, the apple dumpling. Buddy Baker composed the music for it and its 1979 sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. The song "The Apple Dumpling Gang", as heard in the opening and closing credits, was composed by Shane Tatum and was sung by Randy Sparks and The Back Porch Majority.
Tagline: Wanted: For chicanery, skulduggery, tomfoolery and habitual bungling!
The movie also stars Tim Conway
and Don Knotts
as a team of bumbling gangsters who try to steal the gold, but later are offered the gold by the children. Conway and Knotts play the leads in the sequel (The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
), in which Bixby does not appear. The Apple Dumpling Gang
also features Susan Clark
as the stagecoach
driver who is forced to marry the gambler in an attempt for both of them to keep custody of the children; Harry Morgan
as the sheriff
who doubles as the barber
and Justice of the Peace
; and Slim Pickens
as Knotts' and Conway's former boss who tries to kidnap both the children and steal the gold.
The film was a hit at the box office
. In October 1980
, it became one of the first Disney movies to be released on videocassette
. It is also known as being the first film to feature the comedy duo of Don Knotts and Tim Conway. Knotts and Conway developed different styles of pulling off their comedy; Conway's characters were usually the dumber of the two, which made Knotts usually the brains of the group. Both The Apple Dumpling Gang
and its sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
, have been released on Disney DVD in the United States
. In the UK
, however, only the original film has been made available on DVD at the time of writing.
, Knotts and Conway reprised their roles in the unsuccessful sequel The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
. Without the presence of Bill Bixby, Susan Clark and the three children, the film was not a success. Knotts and Conway would team up for two more films together (both independent films), The Prize Fighter
in 1979, and The Private Eyes
. They were also in Gus
released in 1976, even though they did not share any scenes together; instead, Tom Bosley
was Conway's foil in that movie.