The Paleface - 1948
Bob Hope and Jane Russell
The Paleface - released December 24, 1948
We go almost ten minutes into The Paleface watching the twenty-six year old Jane Russell fighting and shooting before we even get to Bob Hope, and until that moment we're watching a Western about double-crosses and the situation posing the question of who are the bad guys.
The film starts right off with a surly Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) in a jail cell. She is then rescued by masked men who appear to be a criminal gang, but they turn out to be working for three desperate governors who need someone to deal with a conspiracy of "white renegades" secretly selling guns to the Indians, who will then presumably slaughter white settlers with the weapons. The previous men that had been assigned to the task of finding the weapon smugglers have all failed (and died in the process) and so sending in the fearless sharpshooter Calamity Jane is a way to try a new approach and to hopefully fool people who will be expecting just another male agent.
Jane is instructed to proceed to a different town and meet with another agent who will pose as her husband so that the two can travel as a typical settler couple into the trouble area without being detected. In exchange for this, the governors persuade the very reluctant Calamity Jane by dangling a full pardon for past crimes as a reward, something that will save ten years jail-time from Jane's life and clear her record. Calamity proceeds to then discover that the agent she was to link up with has been killed.
When "Painless Peter Potter" (Bob Hope) appears, The Paleface switches to outright comedy with Hope as a dentist who is in the midst of botching a couple of oral surgeries, using laughing gas on one client (and using all of the easy gags that accompany using laughing gas), and through it all 'Painless Potter' is constantly consulting a dental "how to" book which isn't helping his outcomes.
With her would-be partner dead, Calamity Jane needs a man to be part of her disguise, and after shooting her way out of an ambush at a bath-house, she leaps aboard 'Painless Potter's' fleeing wagon (he says he's going back to his home in Washington DC where "men may not be brave, but they're not corpses either"). Calamity slips into the seat beside him, reaches over and kisses him, and wacks him in the back of the head with the butt of a pistol, knocking him out. Shortly thereafter Potter wakes up to being slapped in the face over and over as Calamity says "I love you, of course I'll marry you."
With that, The Paleface has completely synthesized its Western-half to its Bob Hope half, and Jane Russell and Hope are on their way to solving the crimes and creating an endless number of jokes about this strangely married pair since the dentist has no idea he's being used as part of a disguise, and Jane keeps looking at his antics and shaking her head, saying "I think I've married a mental case."
A bigger-budgetted sequel was made in 1952 with Russell and Bob Hope playing his own son in Son of Paleface.
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Bob Hope and Jane Russell in The Paleface - 1948
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Original Page Nov 21, 2015 | Updated September 2022