Five months before this above-average Abbott and Costello comedy was released, Universal had a hit with THE EGG AND I, starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert. Featured in the film was Marjorie Main and Ma Kettle. The characters of Ma and Pa Kettle were so popular, they were soon spun off into their own series. Before that, though, Main was cast as the title character in THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP. By the time the A&C western comedy was ready to be released, it was clear that having "Ma Kettle" in the cast would be a great drawing point.
Delightful as Main is in WISTFUL WIDOW, she's only part of what makes this a superior Abbott and Costello film. As with their last few films, the standard formula has been abandoned. There is no love story, the one song in the film is interrupted in less than a minute, and the boys don't whip out their standard routines at the drop of a hat. Instead, most of the comedy comes from the situation of Lou, having been falsely charged with killing Main's husband, now being responsible for her welfare. The bad guys in town find the Widow Hawkins so unpleasant, they dare not shoot Lou, lest they inherit his burden! (Yes, I just wrote a classy phrase like "lest they inherit his burden" in a review about an Abbott and Costello film).
Some of the old jokes and routines do pop up now and then, and the best one is an all-time Lou Costello classic. In a variation of the "Oyster in the Stew" routine done so well by Lou, as well as other comics such as Curly Howard, one of Lou's newly-inherited young-uns puts a frog in his soup. Lou's reactions, as always, are priceless.
One of the featured players in the film, Gordon
Jones, would later play "Mike the Cop" in the Abbott and Costello
television series in the 1950s. ½ - JB