Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Written by Edmund L. Hartmann, Frank Tashlin, and Jack Rose
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#218 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This might just be Bob Hope’s best film. Is that enough to require seeing it before you die?
The federal government springs outlaw sharp-shooter Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) from prison to work on a highly secret mission to uncover a gang that is smuggling dynamite to the Indians. She is to meet up with a federal agent and they are to pose as husband and wife. The agent is killed and Jane picks out the closest male as a substitute. The hapless dupe is ‘Painless’ Peter Potter (Hope), a nervous new dentist. He is happy to get out of town, having pulled the wrong tooth of a real brute. To his happy surprise, Jane claims he proposed marriage when was passed out. They marry and set out West with a wagon train.
On the way, they lose track of the rest of the wagons and end up spending their wedding night in an abandoned shack. This is the first of the many times Jane resorts to conking Peter over the head to avoid his amorous advances. In the morning, they are besieged by Indians. Peter defend the cabin with a rifle but it is Jane that actually dispatches their attackers. She credits Peter and his skill with a gun is a running gag.
The pair continues on only to be captured later by Indians. This is a comedy so it should be no surprise that the day is saved and Jane develops a soft spot for her erstwhile husband.
This is really pretty amusing and there are just enough songs to entertain without making the movie a musical. It’s no worse than many of the other comedies on The List but nothing I would want to see more than once or twice. This picture resurrected Jane Russell’s career after the notorious debut of her bosoms in The Outlaw.
Jay Livingston and Ray Evans won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for “Buttons and Bows”.
The story was remade in 1968 as The Shakiest Gun in the West starring Don Knotts.
Bob Hope sings “Button and Bows”, the second Best Original Song he sang in one of his movies – interestingly, this is better known in versions performed by women