A novel by Jack Bickham from 1971 about a group of orphans who use a gambler to survive was turned into a fave film of 1975: The Apple Dumpling Gang.
Produced by Bill Anderson for Walt Disney Productions, Bill Bixby played Russell Donovan, a gambler who was happily making money during the California gold rush, until he inherits three orphans.
The three kids discover a large gold nugget and realize they don’t want to keep it, and decided they want to give it to two outlaws, Theodore and Amos, played by Don Knotts and Tim Conway, which leads to an elaborate series of mishaps, problems, fights, laughs and the kids figuring out how to get their nugget out of the bank vault.
Actor/cowboy Slim Pickens plays evil Frank Stillwell who tries to kidnap the kids for the gold, while Harry Morgan plays the Sherriff who is trying to figure out the twisted story of everyone involved.
Released in July 1975, Disney Studios marketing machine made this simple film into a box office hit, with ticket sales exceeding $35 million, making it one of the most successful films for Disney in the 1970s.
One of the first films released on videocassette in 1980, it continued to make the studio money in a new form, as kids discovered the funny antics of two outlaws and three kids trying to steal a gold nugget from a bank.