Now we have the second half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, their 1947 comedy The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap, co-starring Marjorie Main. And just in case you missed the poll to choose the “Star Of The Month” for March 2021 in the earlier post…
On their way to California, traveling salesmen Duke Egan (Bud Abbott) and Chester Wooley (Lou Costello) stop in at the town of Wagon Gap, Montana. When somebody openly steals their suitcase, Chester shoots up in the sky, only for a body to fall down dead. The two are arrested, but in their trial, a law is found that makes someone who kills another in a duel responsible for taking care of the family of the deceased, as well as their debts. So Chester and Duke are taken to meet the deceased man’s wife, the Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main) and her family. She takes a shine to Chester, but, since he doesn’t want to marry her, she makes him work. A LOT. However, when she forces him to get her daughter Juanita (Audrey Young) off the stage at a saloon, he finds himself “protected” by the very law that got him into trouble in the first place, as nobody wants to get stuck taking care of the Widow Hawkins and her family. As a result, Chester is made sheriff, and relies not on guns to handle trouble, but the picture of the Hawkins family he carries around with him. Unknown to him, his now-overworked buddy Duke has convinced judge Benbow (George Cleveland) that marrying the Widow would be a good idea as a result of the railroad offering a lot of money to come through her land. Now, Chester can’t get out of the way fast enough, with others looking to kill him and be “stuck” with the Widow and her money!
For the story of The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap, they actually got the idea from an old Montana law (dating back to the 1800s) where the winner of a gunfight would be legally responsible for the family of the victim. The script was originally written with James Stewart in mind for the lead, but that changed when Universal Studios bought the tale and cast Bud and Lou (with Lou getting the role intended for James Stewart). Some of the exterior shots were filmed in California at Vasquez Rocks and the Iverson Ranch. After the movie was done, Bud and Lou signed a contract for a series of comic books (which would last until 1956), and The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap was adapted for the first issue, the only time one of their films was adapted for the series.
For me, this is one of the better Abbott and Costello films. Co-star Marjorie Main was just coming off her first time playing what would become one of her best-known roles as Ma Kettle in The Egg And I. I really like her performance here. If you’ve seen her in enough films (including the previously reviewed Murder, He Says), the idea that everyone would rather let Lou’s character live instead of being stuck with her and her family makes SO much sense! The boys do have a variation on one of their routines here, “Frog In The Soup,” but their comedy still works so well (and, as I said, it’s enhanced by Marjorie Main). For me, it’s a far better western comedy than their previous attempt with Ride ‘Em Cowboy. There’s really no musical numbers here to drag the film down (yay!), and the side romance is barely there (admittedly, you do question why they even bothered, as little as they do with it). A very fun movie (and one I don’t watch nearly enough), so it’s definitely one I would highly recommend seeing!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 18 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
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