At this point, more people have seen the Western musical Paint Your Wagon parodied on The Simpsons than have seen the film itself. Though it was the sixth highest-grossing film of 1969, its ballooning budget insured it would have a hard time turning a profit, and it quickly became a symbol of Hollywood at its most out-of-touch, appearing at a time of declining interest in traditional musicals and of radically changing fashions. When most people think of the films that embody 1969, Easy Rider comes to mind, then a whole slew of other movies in front of Paint Your Wagon.
Yet it’s not entirely disconnected from its era, either. There’s a none-too-subtle critique of capitalism embedded in its tale of frontier life and, though the screenplay jettisons a sub-plot about racial prejudice, one of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s additions to his adaptation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical is an experimental three-way marriage. This involves the central characters of crusty old prospector Ben Rumson (Lee Marvin), his young partner, Pardner (Clint Eastwood), and Elizabeth (Jean Seberg), a young woman Ben buys from a traveling Mormon. And while its generous running time starts making itself felt after a while, there’s a lot to like here, starting with the scenery and continuing through the songs—in spite of the curious decision to dub Seberg’s singing voice while letting Marvin and Eastwood croak their way through their numbers, including Marvin’s once-heard-never-forgotten rendition of “Wand’rin Star.” The wagons start getting painted tonight on Encore Westerns at 10 p.m Eastern. Use oil-based paint. They’re made out of pine. (Ponderosa pine.)