Today, we’ve got a Bob Hope double-feature! To be fair, they’re both kind of cheater reviews, with the other one being some updated comments on the new Blu-ray of The Cat And The Canary, and, while I’ve already done The Paleface (and its sequel) before, that also has a recent Blu-ray release! So, I feel it’s worth talking about the Bob Hope and Jane Russell comedy The Paleface again! Of course, we’ve got our theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to this fun film!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Rough Brunch (1971)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 18 seconds)
The ant gets help from a termite to avoid the aardvark. Another cartoon with the ant getting help from somebody else. While the termite himself may not be one of the best supporting characters from the series, he’s still enough fun to make it worthwhile. After all, the aardvark never seems to see the destruction coming, as he keeps walking in all the wrong places! Certainly amusing enough to revisit with some frequency!
And Now For The Main Feature…
(Host): Well, I don’t see the Narrator, so I better get started telling the story. It was a dark and –
(Click) (The lights on the stage go out)
(Host): Hey, who turned out the lights? (Crash). And who left that chair there for me to crash into?
(Narrator): (From offstage) Never mind that. Get back to the story!
(Host): There he is. But, he’s right, let’s get back to it. It was a dark and stormy night –
(Sound of a thunderclap) (Rain starts falling down on the stage heavily)
(Host): Great. Rain, too?
(Narrator): Get on with it!!
(Host): Well, YOU’RE not the one getting soaked, so shush! Still, I should keep trying. It was a dark and stormy night when two masked men came up on the jail –
(The Narrator comes out in a hold-up mask and points his gun into the back of the Host)
(Host): What is this, a hold-up?
(Narrator): No, YOU’RE the one holding things up. In case you haven’t forgotten, we already covered most of this in the previous review, so I’ll speed you up. Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) is freed from jail. She is sent, by the governor, to find out who is sending guns to a renegade group of Native American Indians. To hide as part of a wagon train going west, she marries dentist “Painless” Peter Potter (Bob Hope).
(Host): Happier now?
(Host): Then, can you take the gun out of my back?
(Narrator): I can, but where would the fun be in that? Now you stay put, while I continue telling the audience the story. (Turns away while still holding gun to Host) Jane finds some men bringing dynamite out with the wagon train. She overhears their suspicions that Painless might be the federal agent, and she feeds them enough details to “confirm” their speculations. Before long, Painless and Jane lose track of the wagons in front of them, and they (along with everybody that was behind them) get separated. They stay at a cabin overnight, but in the morning, they are attacked by a group of Native Americans. Painless, who was outside shaving at the time the attack began, crawled into a rain barrel outside (because the doors were locked before he could get in). Using a gun that Jane tossed him out a window, he tries to start shooting through a hole in the barrel. It appears that he manages to shoot down a number of attackers (but, in reality, it is Jane shooting with a rifle through the window, out of sight of everybody else).
(Host): (Tries to tiptoe away while the Narrator is distracted. Steps on a floorboard that creaks very loudly, and then makes a mad dash offstage)
(Narrator): Hey, not so fast! (Takes aim at the host, and shoots. The bullet ricochets around the stage, and hits a snake that was slithering up behind the Narrator). What? (Looks back at the now dead snake). Wow! Guess my shooting lessons with Painless paid off! (Blows away smoke from gun and puts it in holster. The gun goes off). Hoh! (Starts hopping up and down on one leg and grabs the foot that was shot) “One, two, three, four, five, six seven. I split one of them in the middle!” (Quoting Red Skelton from the movie Lovely To Look At) Anyways, eleven Native Americans were killed in the attack.
(Host): (from offstage) Twelve!
(Narrator): Don’t start that. We’re not doing that one. Again, eleven were killed (although I’m not sure I counted that many shots/bodies in the actual film). Regardless, word about Painless’ heroics makes its way to the town of Buffalo Flats, to the ears of saloon owner (and leader of the renegade group in town) Toby Preston (Robert Watson). He makes plans to have his singer, Pepper (Iris Adrian) try to catch Painless’ attention, in the hope that her boyfriend, Joe (Jeff York), would kill him in a jealous rage. When they get into town, Jane splits up with Painless to go see her contact in town, blacksmith Hank Billings (Clem Bevans). However, in breaking up with Painless, she makes him an easy target for Pepper. When Joe catches them together, Painless challenges him to a gunfight at sundown.
(Host): (From offstage) The fool!
(Narrator): Indeed! When Jane hears about it, she decides to let him die, so that the renegades think the federal agent is dead (leaving her more freedom to sneak around). However, at the last moment, she reconsiders, and shoots Joe (but, of course, everybody still thinks that Painless did it). Jane has Hank try to locate where the dynamite is hidden, while she goes to reconcile with Painless. Later that night, while Painless is unconscious after another one of Jane’s knockout “kisses,” Hank stumbles into their room with an arrow in his back, and, with his dying breath lets her know the dynamite is in the undertaker’s establishment. After waking him back up, Jane sends Painless over to investigate (without fully telling him the reason), and he gets captured (along with Jane).
(Host): (From offstage on stage left) Off to the Indian camp! Yah! (A pair of horses come running from one side of the stage to the other, with the Host being dragged along on the ground by the reins)
(Narrator): (Shakes head) After watching this movie, you’d think he’d know better than that. Anyways, with both of them now captured, can they save the West? Or will there be a massacre?
(Host): (From offstage) Back to the stage! Yah! (Another horse comes riding from off stage right, with the Host holding the reins and riding a skateboard. The Host lets go of the reins and tries to slow down, but crashes into a brick wall, now flat as a pancake) Where did that wall come from?
(Narrator): (Pulls the Host pancake off the wall, sticks a hose into him and start pumping to return him to normal) I have no idea… (Walks offstage and throws a lever that lowers the brick wall back into the ground)
(Host): (Shakes it off) Ok, I’m all right. Now, let’s talk about this movie. Writer Frank Tashlin wanted to create a western parody that would send-up the Owen Wister novel The Virginian (as well as the 1929 movie), along with a lot of the other Western cliches of the time. Actress Jane Rusell was under contract to Howard Hughes, and Paramount had to negotiate with him to get her to do this movie. Making The Paleface would turn out to be one of the few experiences with moviemaking that she would look back on fondly. For Frank Tashlin, that wouldn’t quite be the case, as he disliked what director Norman McLeod did with the film (compared to what he wanted). But, this did help drive him to direct his own movies (including this film’s sequel Son Of Paleface). In the meantime, The Paleface was a big hit, becoming the highest grossing Western parody until Blazing Saddles, and, for the second time, Bob Hope sang an Oscar-winning song with “Buttons And Bows” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans (following his theme song “Thanks For the Memory” winning from 1938).
Well, there’s not a whole heck of a lot more I can say about this movie. When I previously reviewed this movie (and its sequel) nearly three years ago (over on my FB page where I started doing all this), I remarked on a lot of the memorable moments that keep me coming back to this film. And my feelings are still quite similar, as after nearly twenty years of watching this movie, I still enjoy Bob Hope’s antics, and bravado (and oversized ego), and what Jane Russell’s character has to put up with. This film may not be the most politically correct in terms of its treatment of the Native Americans, as their characters are very stereotypical and not that well-developed (but they seem to be a little more developed than in the sequel), but it’s still a movie I come back to every now and then for a few good laughs! So, I would definitely continue to recommend this film, and its sequel (of course, which one you go with may still depend upon your tastes and/or mood, due to the differences in comedy)!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Their transfer of this movie looks quite good. All the colors are more vivid than I’ve seen previously, and the detail is definitely improved! It’s not a full-fledged restoration, as there are some specks and dirt here and there, but it’s certainly the best this movie is likely to look any time soon!
(Host): Now, if you’ll excuse me, to quote Bob Hope, “I’m going back east, where men may not be men, but they’re not corpses, either.” (Starts running offstage)
Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Road To Rio (1947) – Bob Hope (original review of The Paleface) (here) – The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
Jane Russell (original review of The Paleface) (here) – Son Of Paleface (1952)
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