The Paleface (1948)

by Paul on January 27, 2013

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The comedic-western is a genre that is seldom used, mostly because of the immense possibility of failure attached. It is hard to work a story with a western theme that also has enough humor to sustain a plot. (Just ask anybody about the 1999The Paleface (2012) disaster, “Wild Wild West”.) So in order to pull off this type of film, you need a special ingredient, and in the case of “The Paleface” (1948), Bob Hope is the perfect man for this job.  In this delightful film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, Jane Russell stars as Calamity Jane. She has been persuaded by the United States Government to go undercover, in an attempt to discover who has been selling weapons to the Indians. In order to keep the attention off of herself, she decides to marry a dentist named “Painless” Peter Potter (Bob Hope). Together they head out west, but Potter doesn’t now that his new wife has an ulterior agenda.

The brilliance of “The Paleface” is in Bob Hope and his ability to play the sap so well. He walks through the movie clueless of what is going on around him, but it doesn’t matter because every time he gets himself in trouble, Jane Russell is there to bail him out. This unlikely pair works well together, keeping the jokes fresh The Paleface (1948)and entertaining. One of the high points in the script is the ongoing scenario where Potter continuously attempts to consummate their marriage while Jane tries to find any excuse she can to keep Potter out of her bed, or rather his bed. Also in the film is a scene where Potter is locked out of the house during an Indian invasion. While hiding in a barrel, he points his gun through a small hole and repeatedly shoots the dirt just inches away. Meanwhile, Jane sets up through the window above him and proceeds to kill a dozen Indians, but gives all of the credit to her husband. From that point on Hope plays his role with a newfound (and unjustified) confidence that does nothing but cause him more trouble.

In addition to the films humor, it also has a musical side. “The Paleface” has Bob Hope singing the enormously popular and Academy Award winning song, “Buttons and Bows”, written by Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans. Although Bob Hope doesn’t perform it quite as well as Dinah Shore did, he still sings it well, and mixed with his comic inflections, it is easy to see why it became so popularThe Paleface (1948) that year.

“The Paleface” isn’t the type of film you expect to win awards, but it is an enormously entertaining movie that doesn’t lose any of its comic personality as the years go on. In fact, it is so enjoyable that they made a sequel (“Son of Paleface”) that instead of just continuing the story from the first film, follows Potter’s son on his own adventures out west. Jane Russell comes back for more fun and they also added Roy Rogers for good measure. (Yes Trigger is there as well.)

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