If you’ve spent much time on this blog, you’ve figured out that Frank Tashlin’s Son Of Paleface (1952), Bob Hope’s best picture, is one of my favorites films of all time. It’s certainly better than its namesake The Paleface (1948).
Son Of Paleface made millions, so it was decided to send Hope west again. In November 1957, Bob mentioned Alias Jesse James to Louella Parsons — with Frank Tashlin as director! The picture contains a number of the kind of cartoon-ish gags Tashlin was known for (including a drinking gag very similar to one in Son Of Paleface), but he isn’t listed among the film’s four writers. One of the guys who did get credit, William Bowers, also wrote The Gunfighter (1950), The Law And Jake Wade (1958) and Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969).
The plot here is pure genius. Hope’s an insurance salesman sent to buy back the $100,000 life insurance policy he sold to high-risk client Jesse James (Wendell Corey). Jesse cooks up a scheme to bump off Hope, make everyone think he’s Jesse, and collect the insurance money. Rhonda Fleming plays Jesse’s girlfriend, and a slew of TV cowboys have cameos in the last reel — everyone from James Arness to Roy Rogers (who was wonderful in Son Of Paleface). While Norman Z. McLeod did a fine job with Alias Jesse James, it’s fun to think about what Tashlin would’ve brought to the picture.
By the way, I’m looking forward to reading Ethan de Seife’s book Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies Of Frank Tashlin. For years, I’ve been hoping someone would get around to a book on Tashlin. So who’s gonna write one on Phil Karlson or George Sherman?