The Apple Dumpling Gang (film)

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The Apple Dumpling Gang
The Apple Dumpling Gang-1975-Poster.jpg
1975 theatrical poster
Directed by Norman Tokar
Produced by Bill Anderson
Written by Don Tait
Starring Bill Bixby
Susan Clark
Tim Conway
Don Knotts
Harry Morgan
Slim Pickens
Music by Buddy Baker
Cinematography Frank V. Phillips
Edited by Ray de Leuw
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
July 1, 1975 (1975-07-01)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $36,853,000[1]

The Apple Dumpling Gang is a 1975 Disney film about a slick gambler named Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby) who is duped into taking care of a group of orphans who eventually strike gold during the California Gold Rush.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jack Bickham. The so-called "Apple Dumpling Gang" is named after the American dessert treat, 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/performed by Randy Sparks and The Back Porch Majority.

Tagline: Wanted: For chicanery, skulduggery, tomfoolery and habitual bungling!


The 1975 film costars Tim Conway and Don Knotts as a pair of bumbling holdup men who try to steal gold, but are later offered it by a group of orphans. Conway and Knotts play the leads in the 1979 sequel (The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again), in which Bixby and the rest of the original cast – with the exception of Harry Morgan as an Army fort commander – do not appear. It also features Susan Clark as the stagecoach driver who is persuaded to marry Russell in an attempt for both of them to keep custody of the orphans; Harry Morgan as the sheriff who doubles as the barber, Justice of the Peace, and the judge; and Slim Pickens as Knotts' and Conway's former boss who tries to kidnap the children and steal the gold.



The film was a hit at the box office and was the most successful Disney film of the 1970s, but gained mixed reviews from the critics.[2][3] 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, though they were both equally inept. 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 United Kingdom, only the original film has been made available on DVD.

Sequel and TV series[edit]

In 1979, Knotts and Conway reprised their roles in the unsuccessful sequel The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Bill Bixby, Susan Clark, and the rest of the cast did not appear. Harry Morgan was the only other member of the cast to appear in the sequel, although he plays a different character. Without the presence of Bill Bixby, Susan Clark, and the three orphans, the film was not a success. Knotts and Conway would team up for two more films together (both independent films co-written by Conway), 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 film. Conway and Knotts would also appear together briefly as a pair of inept highway patrolmen in 1984's Cannonball Run II.

In January 1982, Disney aired Tales of the Apple Dumpling Gang, a television film starring Ed Begley, Jr. in the Conway role and Arte Johnson in the Knotts role. Two months later saw the premiere of a television series, Gun Shy, with a completely different cast, including Barry Van Dyke in the Bixby role. Six episodes were produced.


  1. ^ "The Apple Dumpling Gang, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (2013-06-19). "The Apple Dumpling Gang Movie Review (1975) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  3. ^ Eder, Richard (1975-07-24). "Movie Review - The Apple Dumpling Gang". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

External links[edit]