|Directed by||Norman Z. McLeod|
|Produced by||Robert L. Welch|
|Written by||Jack Rose|
|Screenplay by||Edmund Hartmann|
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Edited by||Ellsworth Hoagland|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$4.5 million (US/ Canada rentals) |
The Paleface is a 1948 Technicolor comedy Western film directed by Norman Z. McLeod starring Bob Hope as "Painless Potter" and Jane Russell as Calamity Jane. In the film, Hope sings the song "Buttons and Bows" (by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans). The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.
Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) is busted out of a sheriff's jail by a couple of government agents under Governor Johnson (Charles Trowbridge) and Commissioner of Internal Affairs Emerson (Stanley Andrews). Johnson and Emerson wish to hire her to uncover white traitors illegally selling guns to an Indian tribe near Buffalo Flats, one of the frontier areas; since the agents they previously sent to investigate have turned up dead, they have conceived a plan to use Jane, both as a woman and skilled gunfighter, instead. In return for her services, Johnson and Emerson offer her a full pardon for her past crimes.
The plan is for Jane to meet in Port Deerfield with Jim Hunter, another government agent, pose with him as a married couple, and join a settler's trek to the area where the gun running is taking place. However, the mastermind behind the gun smuggling is revealed to be Jasper Martin (Jack Searl), Johnson's secretary. Jane finds Hunter dead and herself hounded by assassins. Evading an attempt on her life, she hitches a ride with Peter "Painless" Potter (Bob Hope), a travelling dentist fleeing town following one of his habitual blunders, and marries him to maintain her cover. The gun smugglers also join the wagon train to deliver a stash of dynamite and to track the federal agent sent to thwart them, believing Potter is their target. After mistakenly straying into Indian territory, one part of the trek is attacked by the Indians while taking a rest at a log cabin. Locked out, Potter hides inside a barrel and shoots wildly, while Jane secretly takes out several Indians. Potter is credited with this achievement, reinforcing the smugglers' assumptions.
After arriving in Bufallo Flats, Jane meets with her contact, Hank Billings (Clem Bevans), and tasks him to find out where the dynamite will be delivered to. Meanwhile, Potter incurs the wrath of Big Joe, a bad-tempered gunslinger (Jeff York). When this clash leads to a duel, Jane initially plans to have Potter killed to throw off the smugglers, but instead ends up aiding him again to continue using him as a decoy and because she has truly begun to fall in love with him.
The same night, Billings reports to Jane that the conspirators have hidden the dynamite in the undertaker's shop before dying from an arrow in his back. Jane sends Potter to the undertaker and prepares to follow in his wake, but both are captured by the smugglers and taken to the Indians' camp, where Johnson has also arrived with the rest of his weapons shipment. In order to punish Potter for killing their braves, the medicine man (Henry Brandon) prepares to have Potter ripped apart by two bent-down trees; but the contraption catapults Potter into the forest instead, leading to the medicine man being banished. While returning to the camp to free Jane, Potter runs into the medicine man, knocks him out and takes his clothes as a disguise.
Not knowing about his opposition's banishment, Potter prepares to free Jane from the stake when the tribesmen close in on him. Taking a powder flask, Potter strays through the camp, laying a powder trail which eventually ignites and blows up some of the smuggled weapons. In the confusion, Jane and Potter escape in Potter's wagon, which is loaded with the dynamite, with the Indians and smugglers on their tail. After Potter drops a lit dynamite stick, he and Jane abandon the wagon just as the smugglers reach it and get themselves blown up. With the mission accomplished, Jane and Potter embark on their honeymoon for real, only for Jane (in Potter's stead) to conclude the film by falling victim to one of the film's running gags.
The film earned $3.5 million in rentals in the US in 1948.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The Paleface was presented on Stars in the Air March 6, 1952. The 30-minute adaptation starred Bob Hope and Jane Russell recreating the roles they had in the film. Hope and Russell also starred in a March 3, 1950, adaptation on Screen Directors Playhouse.