“Brave men run in my family.” – Painless Potter (Bob Hope), The Paleface.
And with that, we start a discussion on the two movies featuring Painless Potter and his son (both played by Bob Hope): The Paleface and Son Of Paleface.
In The Paleface, we find Bob Hope playing the dentist “Painless” Peter Potter (painless because he uses LAUGHING gas on his patients to dull the pain). But to back up a little, we find Jane Russell, who plays Calamity Jane, being broken out of jail by men working for the governor of the territory, so that she can go undercover and help find (and stop) men who are running guns to the Native Americans in the territory (since the governor thinks a woman, particularly one who can handle herself, would be better suited for the job). She was to go to Fort Deerfield, where she would meet up with a lawyer who would pose as her husband on a wagon train heading to Buffalo Flats. Once she gets to Fort Deerfield, she finds the lawyer dead, and finds herself in danger. To get out of trouble, she ducks into a two-story building, with the ladies’ bath lounge on the second floor. On the first floor, where she has to wait, is Painless Potter. When she goes up, the men gunning for her follow, thinking she won’t be wearing her guns (how wrong they were). Due to circumstances, Painless Potter gets out of town in his covered wagon, and Jane jumps onto it. They marry (after she decides to try using him for cover), and join the wagon train. And this is all within the first few minutes! From here on, I’m keeping quiet about the story so as to minimize spoilers.
There are any number of comedy highlights from this movie. Of course, most of Bob Hope’s quips are generally humorous. Of course, the first few minutes where we are introduced to him as Painless, and get to see him in action as a dentist (which is both hilarious and enough to scare you away from dentists at the same time). The “kisses” between Hope and Russell are amusing (normally finished by her smacking him on the back of the head with the butt of a gun to knock him out). The “giggling Indian” (best way I can think of to describe him) should be worth a few chuckles. The fight with the Indians at a cabin on the trail (which “establishes” Painless as a hero) and his gunfight with the town bully in Buffalo Flats (made better by the townspeople’s advice) are both some of the better moments.
Son of Paleface brings back Bob Hope and Jane Russell, and they are joined this time by Roy Rogers and Trigger, the “smartest horse in the movies” (hey, that’s what they opening credits claim)! The movie once again finds us following a federal agent (Roy Rogers), who is out to stop “the Torch,” an outlaw who has been robbing gold shipments from stagecoaches (Jane Russell playing the villain this time. Bob Hope plays Painless’ (or as this movie now refers to him, Paleface) “flesh and idiot” (AKA son), Junior Potter, who has come to town to claim his inheritance. Much to his shock and dismay, he finds his father owed the townspeople a lot of money, and the chest he inherited is empty (a fact he tries to keep hidden from the townspeople)! His father’s old partner believes Paleface hid the gold, and so Junior must try to figure it out, while falling for “Mike” Delroy (Jane Russell), who is the owner of a bar in town (and the richest lady in the territory, who might also be able to help him pay the bills after they are married, or so he thinks)! Again, much further would be spoiling too much.
There is no shortage of comedic highlights in this movie, either. Trigger steals the show, with a number of comedic moments opposite Hope (just don’t ask him who he slept with 😉 ). Watching Hope drink the “Paleface Special” at the bar is definitely something to be seen and enjoyed. Hope’s travels on his car, whether coming into town, driving through the desert to go find the gold, or to escape the Indians out to get him for revenge, all are general laugh riots.
Here are my thoughts on the pair of movies. There is no worldbuilding here, and the stories aren’t really connected, so you could watch either one without needing to see the other. And while Son may be a sequel in name, it could be debated, since it seems to be like everything they have to say about Painless/Paleface goes against a lot of his character from the first movie (not to mention nothing is made of the fact that Junior falls for a woman who looks exactly like his mother).
There is a difference in tone between the two movies as well. Paleface plays with a sense of realism (except for a few things that seem somewhat unrealistic). Son? I once heard it described as a “live-action cartoon,” and that is the best way I can think of to describe it, as SO much of the movie borders on unrealistic (but it works VERY well for me). Paleface also plays mostly as a straight comedy, with two songs to deviate. Son is very much a musical (just don’t expect any fancy dancing here, though), bringing back the song “Buttons and Bows” from the first movie (with a few new lyrics), along with quite a few others. I’m assuming the change in tone between movies stems from the fact that a writer on the first film, Frank Tashlin, hated what the director Norman McLeod did with the first movie, and so decided to direct (and co-write) the second movie. Of course, in both movies, Bob Hope is full of quips along with his tendency to break the fourth wall (although he does so more in the second film than in the first one). I personally think there is fun to be had with both movies, and it ultimately depends on what type of comedy I may be in the mood for as to which I prefer, but I do recommend them both (of course, I will admit neither exactly treats the Indian characters well, but considering both were western parodies, that is to be expected for the time they were made).
As to availability, Paleface remains available on dvd, either alone, as part of a double-feature, or in several multi-film sets from Universal, and clocks in at one hour, thirty-one minutes in length. Son of Paleface is available on dvd from a number of companies or on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, and clocks in at one hour, thirty-five minutes.
And with that, I think I’ll end with another Bob Hope quote, this time from Son Of Paleface:
‘Magna cum Laude! That’s Latin meaning, “If you folks drive home after the show, be sure and use a car!”’
My Rating on Paleface: 8/10
Audience Rating on Paleface:
My Rating on Son Of Paleface: 8/10
Audience Rating on Son Of Paleface: