Remembering Bob Hope - Son
by John Wendt
Scratch almost any Bob Hope
film and you will find a legal issue. Most of the time, especially
in the "Road Films" you can find Bob and Bing Crosby
in the midst of a scam and on the lam.
the occasion of his 100th birthday and now subsequent passing,
I would like to thank Bob Hope for a film that is often overlooked
but is chock full of legal concepts, Son of Paleface.
The 1952 Paramount classic, directed by Frank Tashlin and with
a screenplay by Frank Tashlin, Robert Welch and Joseph Quillan,
is the sequel to another Hope classic, The Paleface.
In The Paleface Hope
plays "Painless" Peter Potter, a dentist from out East
in a Wild West spoof co-starring Jane Russell as Calamity Jane.
The 1948 movie was Bob Hope's first color film and a huge box
office success winning the Academy Award for Best Song with "Buttons
and Bows." Now comes Son of Paleface where Junior,
a recent Harvard graduate and eastern tenderfoot heads to the
Wild West to claim the inheritance left by his daddy, "Paleface"
So often films with legal concepts
are dramas - Twelve Angry Men, The Firm, A Man for
All Seasons. Or if there is a comedy it still focuses on
a courtroom or law school- My Cousin Vinny, Adam's Rib
or Legally Blonde. Here the legal concepts are almost
hidden in the film and that's the beauty of it. They come so
fast and furiously that you often don't see them but they are
there, including: robbery, criminal law, federalism, wills, creditors
remedies, community property, bribery, negligence, product liability,
consumer protection, fraud and even animal rights and conjugal
visits for prisoners. And in true Hope fashion, the jokes come
so quickly that you can easily miss many of them. And some of
the jokes are so bad, so corny, and at times, so obnoxious, that
they are good.
At the beginning of the film
California is being hit by a non-stop series of stagecoach hold-ups
by "The Torch" (Jane Russell). Despite increasing rewards,
there is no luck and Governor Freeman asks for Federal Aid. Coming
to the rescue in better than Indiana Jones fashion, are Federal
Agents, Roy Barton (played by Roy Rogers), Doc Lovejoy (played
by Lloyd Corrigan) and, of course, Roy's horse, Trigger, "The
Smartest Horse in the Movies."
They soon figure out that the
town of Sawbuck Pass is The Torch's headquarters.
Governor Freeman: "Be
careful, Roy. If The Torch ever finds out that you and Doc are
Federal Agents, you'll never get out alive."
Roy: "We have before.
You see, Governor, I disguise myself with a song and Doc hides
behind a bottle of patent medicine."
In Sawbuck Pass, Roy, the singing
cowboy, preps the crowd for Doc's pitch of the sure to be FDA
approved patent medicine.
Doc (from his peddler's wagon):
"And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, my partner and his four-legged
friend have told you a few, only a few, of the curative powers
of Doc Lovejoy's Wonder Tonic. Now, who's going to be the first
one to waltz up and purchase a clean bill of health?"
Also under cover is The Torch's
chief henchman, Kirk (Bill Williams)
Kirk: "Hey, Doc. I'd like
to buy a bottle for the sheriff. He's suffering from 'Torch Trouble.'"
Sheriff: "That ain't funny,
Kirk: "Ain't funny having
bandits steal our gold. Getting so nobody's safe. The next thing
you know The Torch will be riding in, shooting up the town."
Enter Junior Potter fresh from
Harvard in his new horseless carriage, emitting smoke and backfiring
Junior (in the midst of the
smoke): "Somebody must be smoking a full pack. (As the smoke
clears to reveal him and his horseless carriage in full Harvard
regalia) "Easy folks, it's only me. Only me! That's the
understatement of the year!"
With reckless driving he creates
havoc in the streets and spews mud all over town and its inhabitants.
Junior: "Out of my way!
I'm a Harvard Man!"
The steering wheel comes off
and he literally runs into and knocks over Roy and Doc's wagon
causing damage and sending Doc, Roy and Trigger into the mud.
Junior is upset because the wagon ran into him!
Junior: "A scratch
a scratch on my mudguard. Sheriff
Where's the Sheriff?"
Sheriff: "I'm the Sheriff."
Junior: "Oh, you the man?
Well, Sheriff, run down to the corner and get me a crooked lawyer.
How do you like that? Look at the fellow rolling in the mud.
Arrest him for drunk driving. I'm an innocent man and if you
have any justice in you, you'll accept my bribe."
Roy: "What's the big idea?
Look what you did to our wagon, my horse!"
Junior (looking at Trigger):
"Quarantine that beast. He's got chicken pox."
Roy (grabbing Junior): Listen
Junior: "Please, lips
that touch liquor shall never touch mine."
Roy: "I never touched
a drop in my life." (A great reference to Roy Roger's famous
Junior: "Then somebody's
been putting bourbon in your toothpaste."
Roy: "Why you
Sheriff: "Just a minute.
Now you'll pay for that wagon, stranger, or you'll go to the
Junior: "The 'whogow?'
Oh, the 'hoosgow.' Hold on, you can't put a Harvard man in jail!
Roy: "What are you going
to pay for that wagon with?"
Junior: "A preposition
at the end of a sentence and you split your infinitives. Next
thing you know he'll be dangling his participles. Oh, oh, shame
on you, the school marm will certainly here about this, sir.
Now, can one of you peasants direct me to the bank? I'm here
to claim the inheritance left by my daddy, Paleface Potter."
Voice from the crowd: "You
Junior: "You're staring
right at him"
The crowd, in fact the entire
town gathers at the bank. At the Bank, Mr. Stoner (Harry Von
Zell) reads the will to Junior.
Mr. Stoner: "'The reason
I leave my money to my son, Junior, is that being of sound mind'
- Well, I won't bother to read the last paragraph, Junior. It's
merely an expression of your father's love for you, his son."
Junior: "Oh, just a minute,
just a minute. I was so young at the time I don't remember many
of the things Daddy said about me. He poured out his heart in
this will. I'd kind of like to read it."
"'The reason I leave my money to my son, Junior, is that
being of sound mind I can't leave my money to my wife cause I
ain't never forgiven her since the day she presented me an idiot
for a son
.' I was the only child. 'But this idiot is all
I've got in the world, which shows what a lousy spot I'm in
All Dad's friends like me! What a reception! All those smiling
faces out there."
Mr. Stoner: "Some of those
faces out there aren't smiling, Junior. You see your father left
town in a hurry. He left a lot of bills to a lot of people. They
expect to be paid out of the money you inherit."
Junior and Mr. Stoner go to
the back room so that Junior can open his daddy's chest and claim
his immense inheritance.
Mr. Stoner: "There's your
father's chest, Junior. Hasn't been moved since he put it there.
Here's the key."
Junior: "It's a Yale lock.
I wish I had my gloves."
Meanwhile Mr. Stoner and his
assistant, Waverly, move to the front office to give Junior some
privacy to open the literal treasure chest.
Mr. Stoner (to Waverly): "If
they hang Junior Potter they should be ashamed of themselves.
For his sake I hope he finds a lot of money."
Waverly: "The way that
mob's attacking he'll need it."
Mr. Stoner: "Look at that
big fellow with the block and tackle. They'll tear him limb from
Waverly: "This whole thing
makes me sick to my stomach."
Mr. Stoner: "Well, Junior
will be worse than sick to his stomach if doesn't bring that
gold out here. You hold him off while I go get him."
In the meantime Junior opens
his father's treasure chest, only to find
Feigning "gold fever"
he buys some time. According to the will he's got two days to
pay off his creditors. As he's buying time, he meets "Mike"
Delroy (Jane Russell) the gorgeous showgirl who owns the Dirty
Shame Saloon (when she's not robbing stagecoaches) and he's off
to romance her.
Junior: "What's your name,
Mike: "My friends call
Junior: "Pretty masculine
handle for such a feminine pot of goodies. Mind if I take pot
As he goes to get his horseless
carriage to take Mike on a date, his daddy's former partner,
Ebenezer Hawkins (Paul E. Burns) tells him to concentrate on
the riddle that Paleface left him to find the gold rather than
taking Mike out on a date.
Eb: "You've got not time
for romance, boy! You've got to think!"
Junior: "I've been doing
plenty of thinking. I didn't go to college fourteen years for
nothing! I've got it all figured out. It just so happens the
richest girl in town is crazy about me."
Eb: "You mean Mike?"
Junior: "Ha hah. By tomorrow
she'll be Mrs. Mike Potter. Don't you get it? I marry her. This
is California. Community property. I divide her money. With my
half I'll pay my stingy old Daddy's bills. The rest is gravy."
Eb: "But, we'll have that
woman on our hands!"
Junior: "Please, keep
your hands out of my gravy."
And the race is on to find
the gold and pay off the creditors at the same time.
The rest of the movie only
gets better. In the end, Bob, for once, gets the girl, the creditors
get paid and Roy and Trigger ride off into the sunset!
And all agree that Son of Paleface
is one of the few sequels that may be even better than the original.
It's definitely worth your
time and effort to find and watch both films and realize what
a treasure we had in Bob Hope.
Posted July 28, 2003