Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The Abbott & Costello western spoof The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap is predicated on an actual Montana law of the 19th century, which dictated that if a man killed another in a gun duel, that man was responsible for the care and support of the victim's family. The film gets under way with an introductory title: "MONTANA: Where Men Are Men? With Two Exceptions." Those exceptions are travelling salesmen Duke (Bud Abbott) and Chester (Lou Costello), freshly arrived in the wide-open western town of Wagon Gap. No sooner has Chester reached Main Street than he is falsely arrested for the murder of Hawkins, the town layabout. He and Duke are spared the hangman's noose when the genially corrupt Judge Benbow (George Cleveland) reminds the jury that Chester is now responsible for Hawkins' debts and family. In short order, Chester is moved bag and baggage into the ramshackle home of the rowdy Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main) and her brood of seven noisy children. Forced to do all the chores around the Widow's home, poor Chester must also put in overtime at Jake Frame's (Gordon Jones) saloon to pay off Hawkins' debts. While the crafty Duke tries to figure out various methods of extricating Chester from his dilemma, the Widow uses all of her wiles to get Chester to propose marriage to her. The plot goes off on a new tangent when it is discovered that none of the town desperadoes are willing to shoot down Chester, lest they inherit the Widow and her brats. Emboldened by his "untouchable" status, Chester swaggers around town striking fear in the hearts of the local menfolk, bosses Duke around for a change, and is even appointed sheriff! Alas, his invulnerability comes to an abrupt end when it turns out that the Hawkins spread is the most valuable property in town, thereby making Widow Hawkins the territory's most eligible bachelorette. The story comes to an uproarious conclusion when Chester and Jake Frame confront each other in a "high noon" gun duel. Incredibly, screenwriters D.D. Beauchamp and William Bowers originally intended The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap as a vehicle for James Stewart!
accident, death, family, guilt, murder, salesperson, sheriff, widow/widower