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The Paleface (1948 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Paleface
Theatrical poster
Directed byNorman Z. McLeod
Written byEdmund Hartmann
Frank Tashlin
Produced byRobert L. Welch
StarringBob Hope
Jane Russell
CinematographyRay Rennahan
Edited byEllsworth Hoagland
Music byVictor Young
Color processTechnicolor
Paramount Pictures
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 24, 1948 (1948-12-24)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$4.5 million (U.S. and Canada rentals)[2]

The Paleface is a 1948 American Comedy Western film directed by Norman Z. McLeod and starring Bob Hope as "Painless Potter" and Jane Russell as Calamity Jane. In the movie, 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.[3]

The film had a sequel, which is written and directed this time around by its co-writer Frank Tashlin, called Son of Paleface, in 1952. In 1968, Don Knotts remade the film as The Shakiest Gun in the West.

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  • Jane Russell and Bob Hope - Am I in Love? (Son Of Paleface, 1952)



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 traders illegally selling guns to an Indian tribe near Buffalo Flats, one of the frontier areas; because the agents they previously sent to investigate have turned up dead, they feel they need a new approach and have conceived a plan to use Jane, both as a woman and skilled gunfighter. 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 (Jackie 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 and to coerce him into joining the wagon train. The gun smugglers also join, to ensure delivery of a stash of dynamite and to track the federal agent sent to thwart them, believing Potter is their target. After Potter mistakenly leads part of the wagon train into Indian territory, and while they are taking a rest at a log cabin, they are attacked by the Indians. Locked out, Potter hides inside a barrel and shoots wildly while Jane secretly takes out several Indians from inside. Potter is credited with this achievement, reinforcing the smugglers' assumptions.

After arriving in Buffalo Flats, Jane meets with her contact, Hank Billings (Clem Bevans), and tasks him to find out where the dynamite will be delivered. Meanwhile, the smugglers concoct a plan which results in Potter incurring the wrath of Big Joe, a bad-tempered gunslinger (Jeff York). When this clash leads to a duel, Jane initially plans to allow Potter to be killed, to throw off the smugglers, but instead ends up aiding him again because she wants to use him as a decoy and because she has 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, then dies from an arrow in his back. Jane manages to manipulate Potter into going to the undertaker's to scope out who comes to pick up the dynamite; she prepares to follow in his wake, but both are captured by the smugglers and taken to the Indians' camp, where Martin has 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 instead catapults Potter into the forest, leading to the medicine man being banished. While returning to the camp to free Jane, Potter comes upon the medicine man, knocks him out and takes his clothes as a disguise.

Ignorant about the medicine man's banishment, Potter prepares to free Jane when the tribesmen close in on him. Taking a powder flask, Potter strays through the camp, laying a powder trail that 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. As the film ends, Jane (in Potter's stead) falls victim to one of the film's running gags.



The Paleface was filmed at the now defunct Conejo Valley Airport and also at Deerwood Stock Farm, both in Thousand Oaks, California.[4]

The Painless Peter Potter character was to some extent inspired by a real dentist named Painless Parker.[5]


The Paleface was a critical and commercial success, earning $4.5 million in domestic rentals,[2] which made it Paramount's most successful film of 1948.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 100% based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10.[6] Variety wrote that the film is "a smart-aleck travesty on the west, told with considerable humor and bright gags" and that "Bob Hope has been turned loose on a good script."[7]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

The film is listed in the reference book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Radio adaptations

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.[9] Hope and Russell also starred in an adaptation on Screen Directors Playhouse on March 3, 1950.[10]


  1. ^ "109-Million Investment by H'Wood In Current Technicolor Features". Variety. Vol. 169, no. 11. February 18, 1948. p. 7. Retrieved June 11, 2022 – via
  2. ^ a b "All-Time Top-Grossers". Variety. Vol. 177, no. 6. January 18, 1950. p. 18. Retrieved June 11, 2022 – via
  3. ^ Stafford, Jeff (2015). "The Paleface". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Schneider, Jerry L. (2015). Western Filming Locations Book 1. CP Entertainment Books. Pages 118 and 133. ISBN 9780692561348.
  5. ^ James Bartlett (2015); Painless Parker: Part dentist, part showman, all American BBC News. Accessed 17 May 2021
  6. ^ "The Paleface". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  7. ^ Variety Staff (January 1948). "The Paleface". Variety. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  9. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 – via Open access icon
  10. ^ "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (3): 32–39. Summer 2015.

External links

This page was last edited on 10 February 2024, at 19:13
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