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The Shakiest Gun in the West

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The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) starring Don Knotts, Barbara Rhoades
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The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) starring Don Knotts, Barbara Rhoades

 In short, The Shakiest Gun in the West is a very funny Don Knotts movie. Set in the American Old West, Don plays the part of Jesse W. Haywood, a recent graduate from Dentistry school. He is going out west to make his fortune. His final exam in dentistry school is funny, as is his boarding the train out West. Along the way, his stagecoach is held up by two robbers (his reaction being very funny in itself). And one of the two robbers is a lovely woman, “Bad Penny” Cushing (Barbara Rhoades). But, she is soon arrested, and given an opportunity for a pardon in exchange for infiltrating a wagon train heading out west …. And to break up a ring of gun smugglers.

But then the agent who was going to pose as her husband is murdered, and she sets her sights on the first available single man— Don Knotts! After a rocky introduction, the beautiful Penny has our hero besides himself, pretending to have a toothache, and soon has them both in front of a preacher, getting married — despite the groom’s protests. Sealed with a kiss, the newlyweds join the wagon train. Then, along with the audience they meet various members of the wagon train, including the gun runners: a pretend “preacher” (Don ‘Red’ Barry) and his minion, Jackie Coogan.

Wedding night?

So that night, while Jesse is looking forward to his wedding night, his plans get interrupted by guard duty for the wagon train. Between his typical cowardly disposition, and his wife’s lack of interest, nothing happens on the wedding night — except for Penny sleuthing, trying to find the guns, and almost getting caught.

Secret hero

But during an Indian attack on the wagon train, Jesse tries to fire his gun at one of the attackers. Whom Penny shoots, unknown to Jesse.  Other members of the wagon train see Jesse throwing off the body of the dying Indian, and get the wrong impression. And they begin the legend of “Doc Haywood”. Which lasts for a while, until the truth eventually comes out. And along the way, Penny slowly begins to fall in love with her husband … Then eventually gets captured … How will Jesse’s knowledge of dentistry save the day?

Watch The Shakiest Gun in the West for yourself, and enjoy the answer! I recommend it and rate it 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Editorial review of The Shakiest Gun in the West starring Don Knotts, courtesy of

(Editor’s note: Don Knotts’ The Ghost Shakiest Gun in the West is available as part of the Don Knotts Reluctant Hero 4-Pack) Jesse W. Haywood (played by Don Knotts) graduates from dental school in Philadelphia in 1870 and goes west “to fight oral ignorance.” Meanwhile stagecoach robber Penelope “Bad Penny” Cushing is offered a pardon if she will track down a ring of gun smugglers. She tricks the bungling Haywood into a fictitious marriage as a disguise, and he becomes the heroic “Doc the Haywood” after he guns down “Arnold the Kid” and performs other exploits with Penny’s help (unbeknown to him or anyone else).

Funny movie quotes from The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) starring Don Knotts

[On his dream of opening a dress shop]
Pop: Just because I’m rough ‘n’ dirty ‘n’ don’t wear underwear, doesn’t mean I’m not creative.

Deputy: I don’t know anything about grabbing women! I ain’t a married man!

Penny: I have a terrible toothache.
Jesse Heywood (Don Knotts): [staring at her] Is it in your mouth?

Penny: Your hands! The hands of a surgeon!
Jesse Heywood (Don Knotts): Well, hands have always run in my family.

Jesse Heywood (Don Knotts): I can’t believe it. Tonight’s our wedding night. In a few hours we’ll stop, make camp, have a little supper, then… beddy bye.

Jesse Heywood (Don Knotts): [drunk in bar] I’m not a failure. I’m a dentist, a REAL dentist! And I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do I’m gonna spread dental health across the West like a plague!

Jesse Heywood (Don Knotts): [drunk] Brush your dentist twice a day, visit your toothbrush once a year.

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