Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Paleface (1948) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Bob Hope and Jane Russell star in the Western comedy THE PALEFACE (1948), released on Blu-ray today by Kino Lorber.

This amusing film preceded SON OF PALEFACE (1952), reviewed here when it was released by Kino Lorber three years ago.

Russell plays Calamity Jane, who as the film begins is busted out of jail by government agents. (The jail, incidentally, appears to be the train station from WHISPERING SMITH, released by the same studio, Paramount, the very same year.) Jane is promised a full pardon for her misdeeds if she will go undercover with another agent, joining a wagon train in order to find out who's selling guns to Indians.

When the agent is killed, Jane comes up with a new cover and marries traveling dentist Peter "Painless" Potter (Hope). Peter is the typically inept Bob Hope type and has no clue what's going on, but when danger strikes in the form of Indians or other bad guys, everyone -- including Peter -- thinks he's a hero thanks to Jane's secret sharpshooting.

As Jane closes in on the gang, she also begins to feel sorry for the way she's using Peter. Can this marriage in name only be saved?

A little goes a long way for me with Bob Hope's style of comedy, but this film has a lot more going for it, starting with Russell's delightful performance as Calamity Jane. Russell plays one tough customer, surly at the outset, and downright hilarious as the "little woman" carefully managing her new husband while taking on all comers behind his back.

It's a great role, being the serious straight woman opposite Hope's comic shenanigans, and Russell makes the most of it. She also looks terrific, her black hair contrasting delightfully with a blue bonnet and other costumes. Since I'm a Russell fan and she's onscreen a majority of the time, I was a happy viewer.

The movie also has in its favor the Oscar-winning Best Song "Buttons and Bows" by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and the Technicolor photography by Ray Rennahan is quite stunning, even with most of the film's exteriors shot in a soundstage. This is a great-looking movie, and the Blu-ray shows it off to full effect.

Director Norman Z. McLeod keeps things moving for the film's 91 minutes, and he stages a terrific showdown between Peter and Big Joe (Jeff York), with a series of clever sight gags preventing the two men from seeing one another. The film's screenplay was by Frank Tashlin and Edmund L. Hartmann.

Iris Adrian has a nice role as saloon gal Pepper, who sings "Meetcha Round the Corner," dubbed by Annette Warren. Warren later would dub Ava Gardner in SHOW BOAT (1951).

The cast also includes Robert Armstrong, Clem Bevans, Stanley Andrews, Iron Eyes Cody, Chief Yowlachie, Olin Howland, Tom Kennedy, Robert Watson, and Jackie Searl.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific. Disc extras include the trailer, a gallery of three additional trailers for Bob Hope movies, a pair of featurettes, a "Buttons and Bows" singalong, and a commentary track by Sergio Mims.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

A Buttons and Bows singalong? Like Frasier during the PBS pledge drive?

I'm a bigger fan of Hope than yourself, but the way you write of the glories of Janey and the Technicolor, and the sheer fun in Paleface should entice even newbies and non-fans alike.

4:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

If you're a big Hope fan this is an absolute must! There's a lot about both the film and the Blu-ray to like. :)

Best wishes,

9:12 AM  

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