Son of Paleface (1952)
Director: Frank Tashlin
Writers: Frank Tashlin, Joseph Quillan and Robert L. Welch
Starring: Bob Hope, Roy Rogers and Jane Russell

The Plot: Bob Hope plays Peter “Paleface” Potter, Jr., a Harvard man who has left school to head back home out west during the turn of the 20th century. His father has recently passed away and has left what appears to be a very large inheritance for Junior, but appearances can be deceiving. The senior Potter, before he died, had collected a rather large number of debts throughout the local community and when Potter goes to collect his inheritance at the bank… he finds nothing but an empty box! Knowing that he’ll be ripped apart if he confesses that there is no inheritance, Junior simply pretends that the inheritance was even more vast than anyone could have imagined. While Junior is forced to put up this charade, a local bandit has an eye on Potter’s money. Mike “The Torch” Delroy (played by the beautiful Jane Russell) is the leader of a rough and tough band of outlaws, but being a lovely young woman she figures she can better take advantage of Potter by using her feminine ways instead of simply pointing a gun. While she heads into town to trick Junior into falling in love, she finds that special agent Roy Barton (Roy Rogers) has been placed on her tail and knows precisely what she and her gang are up to!

The Review
Few characters have so bred themselves as deeply into the American culture as Bob Hope did within his extremely long lifetime. An actor, comedian, singer and all around entertainer, with his life he left us a great deal of treasures. A comedian with a very distinct style, his wit was often sarcastic and would break the fourth wall. His influence can be felt throughout so much of modern comedy, even to this day his contributions are seen in modern cinema. His philanthropy and generosity is well regarded, making the man nearly as beloved as the character he would portray onscreen. When he died we all came to really know just how special a person he was. I know that I personally revisited his work and realized just how well regarded he was in his constant USO trips whenever US troops were stationed overseas. A beloved man, his work in film has been left behind outside of his particular circle of fans, but now Shout! Factory is releasing much of his library on home DVD. Son of Paleface is actually a sequel to Hope’s previous film The Paleface (1948) and shows Hope at his wittiest. Although it is certain that this sort of comedy isn’t going to appeal to all audiences, more people would probably enjoy Bob Hope’s work if they actually got over the fact that it’s from 1952 and simply gave the movie some time.

I’ve always had a vague appreciation for Hope’s work, but generally I knew him more as a personality outside of cinema than from his actual work in front of the camera. He is a man that became bigger than any one single film of his own, and the same could be said of his cast-mate Roy Rogers. Rogers was the epitome of the early cinematic cowboy, when film didn’t really try its very hardest to directly reflect what life was like for the real citizens of the wild west. One look at Roy Rogers with his flamboyantly colorful outfits and today’s cinema-go’ers will likely laugh their heads off, but there is definitely something about Rogers that any fan of movies can get. He’s that onscreen character who may not delve into a dark place in order to recite his lines with passion, but he remains convicted in his performance. Here, with Son of Paleface, he is at his most austere and confident. Riding along with him is Trigger, his famed horse who actually dances during one of Rogers’ many musical sequences. A musical sequence that is soon turned into pure comedic insanity as Bob Hope wanders into town driving an automobile, spewing mud over the entire town, while disrupting a large gathering of people who have came to hear Rogers sing. The sequence is utterly cheesy in its frantic delivery of Bob Hope’s comedy, but it works in establishing the charge that the rest of the movie would then hope to follow.

Also along for the ride is the beautiful Jane Russell who is an actress that I am ashamedly unfamiliar with outside of her name and popularity. Russell is about as seductive as any one woman can get, but also shows a great deal of strength, as we watch her character constantly out-think both Hope and Rogers as the story progresses onward. Her character is the tough cowgirl who is as quick to rob you as she is to shake your hand and her character actually manages to come across as a very empowered woman. This is something rather unexpected, as the movie does sort of deliver on many of the pre-conceived notions that we have about 1950’s Hollywood. The way that Native Americans are portrayed is of course potentially-offensive, but I find that it is always best to watch older films such as this with your judgement-meter turned down ever so slightly because there’s no telling what you or others might think about modern films in fifty years or so. With that said, one reliable aspect about comedy from this era is that it captured that perfect level of absurdity that could really make slapstick like this so much fun. Similar to the work of The Three Stooges or The Marx Brothers from earlier, Son of Paleface features some really cartoonish and over the top comedic bits throughout its run-time.

Bob Hope is the ultimate star of this movie however, as he really steps up to the plate in order to deliver comedic gold. I was actually surprised with how absurd much of the comedy was to be honest. You think of strange and slightly off-kilter humor as if it were some kind of newly crafted device from our own generation, but Hope actually showcased a flare for the non-sequitur. While most of the movie may head in a uniform pattern, every now and then Hope will slip in some bizarre bit of surrealist comedy that hardly seems on topic but is never the less entirely hilarious. The movie is rife with such moments and Bob Hope is there to keep things as far away from being “grounded in reality” as he possibly can.

The Conclusion
As I started this review off, I have to say that there are going to be a strict number of people who will be opposed to liking this movie regardless of what the content actually provides. However, I ask that viewers keep an open mind and they may just find a delightfully funny piece of comedy that seems quite ahead of its time. I give it a four out of five, on pure entertainment levels!