|Paint Your Wagon|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Joshua Logan|
|Produced by||Alan Jay Lerner|
|Screenplay by||Alan Jay Lerner|
Paddy Chayefsky (Adaptation)
|Based on||Paint Your Wagon|
by Alan Jay Lerner
|Music by||Lerner and Loewe|
Additional song composer:
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
|Edited by||Robert C. Jones|
Alan Jay Lerner Productions
The Malpaso Company
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Paint Your Wagon is a 1969 Westernmusical film starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg. The film was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon by Lerner and Loewe. It is set in a mining camp in Gold Rush-era California. It was directed by Joshua Logan.
When a wagon crashes into a ravine, prospector Ben Rumson finds two adult male occupants, brothers, one of whom is dead and the other of whom has a broken arm and leg. While burying the dead man, gold dust is discovered at the grave site. Ben stakes a claim on the land and adopts the surviving brother as his "Pardner" while he recuperates.
Pardner is innocent and romantic, illustrated by him singing a love song about a girl named Elisa ("I Still See Elisa"), who he later confesses exists only in his imagination. Pardner is a farmer who hopes to make enough in the gold rush to buy some land, and is suspicious of the drunken and seemingly amoral Ben. Ben claims that while he is willing to fight, steal, and cheat at cards, his system of ethics does not allow him to betray a partner. Ben will share the spoils of prospecting on the condition that Pardner takes care of him in his moments of drunkenness and melancholy.
After the discovery of gold, "No Name City" springs up as a tent city with the miners alternating between wild parties ("Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans") and bouts of melancholy ("They Call the Wind Maria"). The men become frustrated with the lack of female companionship, so the arrival of a Mormon, Jacob Woodling, with two wives is enough to catch the attention of the entire town. The miners persuade Woodling to sell one of his wives to the highest bidder. Elizabeth, Jacob's younger and more rebellious wife, agrees to be sold based on the reasoning that whatever she gets, it can't be as bad as what she currently has.
A drunken Ben winds up with the highest bid for Elizabeth. Ben is readied for the wedding by the other miners ("Whoop-Ti-Ay"), and is married to Elizabeth under "mining law," with Ben being granted exclusive rights to "all her mineral resources." Elizabeth, not content to be treated as property, threatens to shoot Ben on their wedding night if she is not treated with respect. While she believes Ben is not the type to truly settle down, this is acceptable if he builds a proper wooden cabin to provide her with some security for when he inevitably leaves. Ben, impressed by Elizabeth's determination, enlists the miners to keep this promise, and Elizabeth rejoices in having a proper home ("A Million Miles Away Behind the Door").
Sensing the other miners becoming obsessed with her, Ben is consumed by jealousy and paranoia. News comes of the pending arrival of "six French tarts" to a neighboring town and a plan is hatched to kidnap the women and bring them to "No Name City" ("There's a Coach Comin' In"), thus providing the other miners with female companionship. Ben heads up the mission and leaves Elizabeth in the care of Pardner. The two fall in love ("I Talk to the Trees"), whereupon Elizabeth, saying she also still loves Ben, convinces them that "if a Mormon man can have two wives, why can't a woman have two husbands?"
As the town booms, the arrangement with Ben, Pardner, and Elizabeth works well for a while. But soon the town becomes large enough that civilized people from the East begin to settle there. A parson begins to make a determined effort to persuade the people of No Name City to give up their evil ways, warning the townsfolk that they will be swallowed up by God's wrath if they do not repent ("The Gospel of No Name City"). As the gold plays out, Ben and a group of miners discover that gold dust is dropping through the floor boards of many of the saloons. They tunnel under all the businesses to get the gold ("The Best Things in Life Are Dirty").
Meanwhile, a group of new settlers is rescued from the snow, and the strait-laced family is invited to spend the winter with Elizabeth and Pardner, who is assumed to be her only husband. Ben is left to fend for himself ("Wand'rin' Star"). In revenge, he introduces one of the family, naive young Horton Fenty, to the pleasures of Rotten Luck Willie's saloon and cat house. This leads to Elizabeth dismissing both Ben and Pardner from the log cabin. Pardner takes to gambling in Willie's ("Gold Fever"). During a bull-and-bear fight, the streets collapse into the tunnel complex dug by Ben and the others after the rampaging bull falls into it and knocks out all of the support beams, and the town is destroyed. A reprise of "The Gospel of No Name City" plays as the town is literally swallowed by the earth.
Ben departs for other gold fields, commenting that he never knew Pardner's real name, which Pardner then reveals: Sylvester Newel. Elizabeth and Pardner reconcile and plan to stay.
All songs written by Lerner and Loewe unless otherwise noted.
Chayefsky provided a significantly changed storyline from the stage musical version. In the film "Rumson City" is simply called "No Name City," and Ben Rumson has no daughter. In the stage show, "Elisa" is Ben's departed wife, but in the film, she is Pardner's fantasy. The character "Julio" is replaced by "Pardner", now an American and Ben's partner in the gold claim. Additionally, in the film it is Pardner who falls in love with Elizabeth, Ben's wife under mining law, rather than the stage musical character Edgar Crocker. The temporary solution to the love triangle among Ben, Pardner and Elizabeth appears only in the film as well. In the stage version, Ben Rumson dies at the end; in the film he survives.
Lee Marvin accepted the lead role instead of appearing in The Wild Bunch. He received $1 million while Eastwood was paid $750,000.Faye Dunaway turned down the role of Elizabeth before Seberg was cast.Diana Rigg and Julie Andrews were also considered for the role. Eastwood and Marvin did their own singing, while Seberg's songs were dubbed. The early incarnation of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a cameo in the song "Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans." Some songs from the original musical were dropped, some were added by Alan Jay Lerner and André Previn, and others were used in different contexts.
Paint Your Wagon was shot near Baker City, Oregon, with filming beginning in May 1968 and ending that October. Other locations include Big Bear Lake, California and San Bernardino National Forest; the interiors were filmed at Paramount Studios, with Joshua Logan directing. The film's initial budget was $10 million, before it eventually doubled to $20 million. A daily expense of $80,000 was incurred to transport cast and crew to the filming location, as the closest hotel was nearly 60 miles away. The elaborate camp used in the film cost $2.4 million to build.
The film was released at a time when movie musicals were going out of fashion, especially with younger audiences. Its overblown budget and nearly three-hour length became notorious in the press. Eastwood was frustrated by the long delays in the making of the film, later saying that the experience strengthened his resolve to become a director. According to Robert Osborne, Marvin drank heavily during the filming, which may have enhanced his screen appearance, but led to delays and many retakes.
Paint Your Wagon opened at Loew's State II theatre in New York City on October 15, 1969 and grossed $50,506 in its first week. It opened in Los Angeles the following week and immediately expanded to another 12 cities. The film became Paramount's sixth largest success up to that point (and the sixth highest-grossing film of 1969) when it earned $31.6 million over its release, although the earnings never offset the cost of production and marketing.
In the UK, Paint Your Wagon had a 79-week 70mm roadshow run at The Astoria Theatre in London, and Marvin's deep-voiced rendition of "Wand'rin' Star," accompanied by the film's choir, became a number one hit. His voice was described by Jean Seberg as "like rain gurgling down a rusty pipe". Interviewed on NPR, Marvin said that the song was a hit in Australia, and someone there described it as "The first 33 1/3 recorded at 45."