The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
Just before Bud Abbott and Lou Costello began battling Universal Studios’ stable of Classic Monsters they faced off against Marjorie Main in full Ma Kettle mode in this western frontier comedy.
The boys find their way into an untamed frontier town where guns are blazing and law doesn’t really exist. No sooner do they arrive in town and Lou is blamed in the shooting death of a no good scoundrel who happens to be the runaway husband of Marjorie. As he is about to be strung up with Bud by his side it is decided that Lou will have to make good on all the dead man’s debts and responsibilities. This includes moving to Main’s farm house where she is surrounded by rowdy kids and plenty of land to till.
Before we know it Lou is working day and night to pay off the debts he has assumed and Bud has of course found a nice mattress to reside in. As the plot moves forward, Lou winds up as the new town tamer with a badge. It isn’t the gun that makes him “the Man” but the photograph of Main he flashes to would be killers. No one wants to assume the duties he has already claimed for his own.
Life for Lou could be so much easier if he succumbed to the charms of Marjorie. She is so hilarious trying to get cozy with him on the porch swing. First she plays up the soft feminine voice and when Lou isn’t responding out comes the gravelly holler we are so familiar with from her long time stint as Ma in the Kettle films. “Work like a dog or marry me!”
Abbott who of course prefers to have Costello do his bidding and not Marjorie’s starts a rumor that backfires on poor Lou. He lets it become known in town that the man who marries Main will be set financially as the railroad wants her land. Before Lou knows it he has a target on his back.
Charles T. Barton directed this feature and continued to helm a number of features with “the boys” including the classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. He also would end up working with Main on one of the Kettle films. Glenn Strange turns up here as well before moving on to appear as “the Monster” for the third time in the Frankenstein comedy classic where Lou’s brain is to be moved into the hulking giant.
What makes this film different in the Abbott and Costello catalogue is Marjorie Main. By this time in her career she had a sturdy screen presence and could hold her her own with box-office draws of the day. So this time out if Abbott isn’t picking on poor Lou then Marjorie is pushing him around. Much to our delight.