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The Apple Dumpling Gang

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Walt Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, starring Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Bill Bixby, Susan Clark
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Walt Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, starring Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Bill Bixby, Susan Clark – DVD review

Many people who were children during 1975 will remember Walt Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang with fondness. The basic plot involves three orphans, who become the responsibility of Russell Donovan (played by Bill Bixby), a bachelor and small-time con artist who wants nothing more than to be free of them. After spending time trying to foist the children upon someone else, it’s found out that they own the deed to a gold mine, formerly thought to be worthless, but that produced a sizable nugget of gold after an earthquake.

Walt Disney’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, starring Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Bill Bixby, Susan Clark

Now the townspeople are interested in the children, including a pair of inept thieves, played hilariously by Don Knotts and Tim Conway. The only person who truly cares for the children (besides Donovan, who’s slowly growing attached to the “three little swindlers” ) is Magnolia “Dusty” Clydesdale (Susan Clark), the inevitable love interest.

So, how does the movie hold up after 30 years? Surprisingly well! Don Knotts and Tim Conway remain two of the funniest screen clowns, playing dim-witted buffoons well. The romance drags a little, and the children are perhaps too cute, but it’s well worth watching. Another point in its favor is the portrayal by Harry Morgan as an old West Sheriff and Judge, funny in the extreme.

Extras on the DVD include:

  • Commentary by Susan Clark, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, and Brad Savage
  • “A Look Back With The Gang”
  • Conversations With Tim Conway
  • “Disney’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy Heroes” – Old cartoons beginning with The Cactus Kid, 1930
  • Classic Disney Cartoon – Two Gun Goofy
  • Lost Treasures: “The Disney Back Lot”
  • 1975 Disney Studio Album
  • Gallery – Production Stills, Biographies, Advertising Archives

Editorial Review courtesy of

Bill Bixby plays a 19th-century gambler who inherits responsibility for three orphans, but the kids in turn have something of value: a huge gold nugget. This Disney film from 1975 is an enjoyable potboiler with its sentimentality under control and the accent on laughs, most of which are provided, not unexpectedly, by Tim Conway and Don Knotts as thieves who want to get their hands on the treasure. An easy, safe film for children. You can’t go wrong with this. —Tom Keogh


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