Chester Wooley (Lou Costello) and Duke Egan (Bud Abbott) are traveling salesmen who make a stopover in Wagon Gap, Montana while en route to California. During the stopover, a notorious ...
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Chester Wooley (Lou Costello) and Duke Egan (Bud Abbott) are traveling salesmen who make a stopover in Wagon Gap, Montana while en route to California. During the stopover, a notorious criminal, Fred Hawkins, is murdered, and the two are charged with the crime. They are quickly tried, convicted, and sentenced to die by hanging. The head of the local citizen's committee, Jim Simpson (William Ching), recalls a law whereby the survivor of a gun duel must take responsibility for the deceased's debts and family. The law spares the two from execution, but Chester is now responsible for the widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main) and her seven children. They go to her farm, where Chester is worked by Mrs. Hawkins from dawn to dusk. To make matters worse, Chester must work at the saloon at night to repay Hawkin's debt to its owner, Jake Frame (Gordon Jones). Her plan is to wear Chester down until he agrees to marry her. Chester quickly learns that no one will harm him, for fear that they will have to ...Written by
THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP (Universal-International, 1947), directed by Charles T. Barton (title not to be confused with similar sounding RUGGLES OF RED GAP (Paramount, 1935) starring Charles Laughton), returns the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to western setting for the first time since RIDE 'EM COWBOY (1942). With the title role going to Marjorie Main, she also has the distinction of having her name placed above the title along with Abbott and Costello. Casting Main opposite the dual is priceless, for that this character actress with the raspy voice and rough exterior, makes a good opposition for the little tubby Costello. Having already played hillbilly parts in MURDER HE SAYS (Paramount, 1945), and the role of a lifetime as Ma Kettle as introduced in THE EGG AND I (Universal, 1947), who else but Marjorie Main could assume the title role and make it so appealing?
Setting the pace with its opening title: "Montana in the days when men were men - with two exceptions ..." the story introduces the two exceptions being Duke Degan (Bud Abbott) and Chester Woolley (Lou Costello), a couple of city slickers traveling to Californian by way of stagecoach. Being household specialty salesmen from Paterson, New Jersey, their coach stops three miles from the nearest town town of Wagon Gap, forcing the twosome to walk the rest of the way. Entering Red Gap, they find the town lacks law and order, consisting of shootings, flying bullets and barroom brawls. After acquiring a couple of shooting irons, Chester's gunshot into the air ends up with the body of notorious gambler, Fred Hawkins, falling by his side. Accused of the killing, Duke and Chester first find themselves with a noose around their necks before Jim Simpson (William Ching) insists of a fair trial. The trial, set in a bar with Judge Benbow (George Cleveland) presiding, with the hanging party as their jurors, Simpson saves the necks of the twosome from a mock trial by reading a Montana law book where the one responsible for the death of the party must be responsible of the obligation of the deceased, the one being Chester. No sooner do Duke and Chester meet up their responsibility by ending up on the farm of the Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main), and her seven unruly children: Juanita (Audrey Young), Matt (Bill Clauson), Billy (Bill O'Leary), Sarah (Pamela Wells), Jefferson (Jimmie Bates), Lincoln (Phil Dunn), and Sally (Diane Florentine). The widow takes a liking to Chester to become her next husband, while Duke is assigned as the family guardian. To make sure these men don't sneak away, the widow assigns her vicious German shepherd dog, Wolf, stand guard in their bedroom. Because Chester refuses to marry and become the new father, the widow has him doing all the household chores, forcing Chester to come late for his meals, eaten by the lazy Duke and the Hawkins brew. Later, Chester becomes the town sheriff, using the widow's family photo as protection against those going against his ruling. Further complications ensue as Duke spreads rumor about a railroad going through the widow's land that would make her the richest woman of Wagon Gap. Will Duke and Chester ever get to make it to California? Other cast members include: Gordon Jones (Jake Frame); Peter Thompson (Phil); Glenn Strange ("Lefty") and Dewey Robinson. Audrey Young, as the eldest of the Hawkins children, sings "There's Plenty More Than Time" in the Round-Up Saloon sequence,but not in its entirety.
A solid 78 minute Abbott and Costello comedy where their scenes are nearly stolen by Main's performance, the team offers some of their usual gag material as highlights, including a frog jumping from one bowl of soup to another, disrupting the dining area. Their cheating card game, originally performed by Bud and Lou in BUCK PRIVATES (1941), is repeated, with the only difference being performed by Abbott and Main instead of Costello. Other than chasing scenes, usually found in their comedies, Costello playing sheriff requiring respect from a town of toughs is typical, yet amusingly done.
Though not exceptionally a great comedy, THE WISTUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP, is certainly fun to watch. It's a wonder what would have been had Abbott, Costello and Marjorie Main joined forces together in her popular "Ma and Pa Kettle" film series? Seeing this movie comes close to such an idea. Costello sharing antics with Pa Kettle (Percy Kilbride) would have been hilarious. Formerly distributed on video cassette, currently available on DVD. (**1/2)
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