The Paleface (1948)

NORMAN Z. McLEOD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 1948Screenplay by , additional dialogue by Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by , Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 1948.

Calamity Jane () is in prison and looking at a lengthy sentence, but lawmen have need of her skills and release her on condition: they want her to go west on a wagon train disguised as the wife of one of their agents, her assignment to root out smugglers who are selling arms to enemy “Indians”. She agrees because they promise her a pardon, but she has to think fast when the man who is meant to be her partner is found dead and the bad guys come after her. The solution to her dilemma is a cowardly dentist () who will take the dead man’s place without knowing it, a bumbling fool who can’t believe his luck when this curvy beauty wants to marry him on sight. On the road, he surprises himself when they are attacked by enemies and he somehow manages to kill them all despite having no finesse with a gun. The film’s politics regarding the presence of indigenous people are atrocious by today’s standards, Sacheen Littlefeather might have taken to that Oscar stage for this one movie alone, while the rhythm of the action is sluggish and laboured, marred a great deal by the uneven quality of the lead performances. Hope elicits plenty of laughs for his foolish pranks, but the whipsmart timing and confidence that Russell would show in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes hasn’t appeared yet, her performance here is weak and only periodically does she seem to be in on the joke.

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