The Paleface (1948)

Jane Russell and Bob Hope
Jane Russell and Bob Hope

'The Paleface' is a comedy movie, and Western parody made in 1948, directed by Norman Z McLeod, and starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. It was the highest grossing movie that Bob Hope made in his career and the third highest grossing movie of 1948. The film is notable for the song 'Buttons and Bows', sung by Hope, which won the Academy Award for Best Song.

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Jane Russell appears in her third picture as the gunslinging Calamity Jane, and she takes her chance well to show her quality as an actress, singer, and comedienne. She is recruited by the US government to help track down a gang who are selling guns to the Indians. She goes undercover, posing as an emigrant on a wagon train, and pretends to fall in love with and marries Painless Peter Potter, an incompetent and cowardly dentist played to the hilt by Bob Hope. As Painless, he has a wonderful time, playing his stock 'cowardly lecher' character and wisecracking his way through every situation. " Help, help, there's a million Indians out here against one coward!"

Much of the humor in 'The Paleface' is along predictable lines with Indians inhaling the dentist's laughing gas and Hope performing all manner of unheroics, leading to his being mistaken for a courageous Indian fighter thanks to Jane's sharpshooting. Hope is of course madly attracted to the curvaceous Russell - "You've got just the kind of mouth I like to work on." There's a running joke about the endlessly postponed consummation of the marriage as Russell gets on with the job of defeating the bad guys.

Painless and Calamity are captured and taken to an Indian camp, where Indians are played both by Chief Yowlachie, (a genuine Native American) and by Iron Eyes Cody (an Italian-American who passed as a Native American). The comedy at their expense, though hardly politically correct, is too silly to give serious offense.

Hope gives a pleasing rendition of the song 'Buttons and Bows', written by Victor Young, which won an Oscar. Four years later 'Buttons and Bows' was repeated in a sharp and equally funny sequel, titled 'Son of Paleface', (directed by the writer of 'The Paleface', Frank Tashlin). Hope and Russell are reunited, although as different characters, and are this time supported by Roy Rogers, and his horse Trigger, who gets a song of his own, 'A Four Legged Friend'.

'The Paleface' is undoubtedly one of Hope's best films, and the chemistry with his delightful foil, Jane Russell, helps make this a classic comedy movie.

Main Cast

Bob Hope ... 'Painless' Peter Potter
Jane Russell ... Calamity Jane
Robert Armstrong ... Terris
Iris Adrian ... Pepper
Bobby Watson ... Toby Preston
Jackie Searl ... Jasper Martin
Joseph Vitale ... Indian Scout
Charles Trowbridge ... Gov. Johnson
Clem Bevans ... Hank Billings
Jeff York ... Big Joe
Stanley Andrews ... Commissioner Emerson
Wade Crosby ... Jeb
Chief Yowlachie ... Chief Yellow Feather
Iron Eyes Cody ... Chief Iron Eyes
John Maxwell ... Village gossip


Director ... Norman Z. McLeod
Producer ... Robert L. Welch
Screenplay ... Edmund L. Hartmann, Frank Tashlin
Screenwriter (Additional Dialogue) ... Jack Rose
Music ... Victor Young
Cinematography ... Ray Rennahan
Release Date ... 24 December, 1948
Runtime ... 91 min
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Distribution Company ... Paramount Pictures

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Music, Original Song ... Jay Livingston, Ray Evans, for the song "Buttons and Bows"
No Unsuccessful Nominations: