Paint Your Wagon


2h 44m 1969

Brief Synopsis

Two California miners share a gold claim and a wife.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Musical
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Oct 1969
Production Company
Alan Jay Lerner Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Oregon, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Paint Your Wagon by Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe (New York, 12 Nov 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 44m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

During the California Gold Rush, while digging a grave for the victim of a covered wagon accident, prospector Ben Rumson discovers gold. Vowing to share the sizable stake with the dead man's surviving brother, Pardner, Rumson founds No Name City. At an auction Rumson purchases a Mormon's spare wife, Elizabeth, whom he also shares with Pardner. To alleviate the jealousy her presence causes in the mining camp, Rumson diverts a coach of French prostitutes to No Name City, where they quickly establish a brothel. In order to conserve loose gold dust, Rumson and Pardner honeycomb the town's streets and buildings with shallow mines. The depletion of the area's gold resources coincides with the arrival of the Fentys, a respectable New England couple. Taking pity on the couple's inhibited son, Rumson introduces the youth to the pleasures of Mother's Darling Hotel, the French whorehouse. Horrified, Elizabeth ejects Rumson from their home. As a traveling evangelist prophesies the town's destruction, a raging bull butts the supports of Rumson's tunnels, causing the collapse of No Name City. Following the camp's demise Rumson leaves for new adventures, while Elizabeth and Pardner farm the land. Songs : "I'm on My Way" (Ben, Pardner, Willie, Wong, Duncan, Clendennon, Foster, Schermerhorn, Tabor, Mooney, Holbrook, Woodling, and Miners), "I Still See Elisa" (Pardner), "The First Thing You Know" (Ben), "Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans" (Ben, Miners, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), "They Call the Wind Maria" (Willie and Miners), "A Million Miles Away Behind the Door" (Elizabeth), "I Talk to the Trees" (Pardner), "There's a Coach Comin' In" (Miners), "Whoop-Ti-Ay!" (Miners), "The Gospel of No Name City" (The Parson), "Best Things" (Ben, Pardner, Duncan, Clendennon, and Foster), "Wand'rin Star" (Ben and Miners), "Gold Fever" (Pardner, Miners, and Dance Hall Girls), "I'm on My Way" (Miners).

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Musical
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Oct 1969
Production Company
Alan Jay Lerner Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Oregon, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Paint Your Wagon by Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe (New York, 12 Nov 1951).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 44m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Score

1970

Articles

Paint Your Wagon


"Howdy, Parson. Welcome to HELL!"
Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon

Lee Marvin signed on for a five-month tour of hell when he accepted his first $1 million contract to star in the 1969 musical blockbuster, Paint Your Wagon. But though the adaptation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1951 stage hit was mired in chaos and couldn't hope to make back its huge (for that time) $20 million budget, it brought Marvin a hit record and a lifelong friendship with director Joshua Logan.

Paint Your Wagon was one of several big-budget musicals put into production in the wake of the phenomenal success of The Sound of Music (1965). But where The Sound of Music had been produced by seasoned veterans, Paint Your Wagon was put in the charge of lyricist/screenwriter Lerner, who had never produced a film before. Since the stage version had succeeded largely on the strength of its Agnes de Mille choreography and in spite of its weak script, Lerner urged writer Paddy Chayefsky, best known for realistic dramas about the struggles of little men, to develop a new story. In place of the original script about the daring romance of a miner's daughter and a Mexican laborer, Chayefsky expanded a subplot about a miner (Marvin) who buys a Mormon settler's less favored wife (Jean Seberg). To keep the film in touch with the swinging '60s, he gave the miner a partner, appropriately named Pardner (Clint Eastwood), with whom he shares the woman. And as a moral lesson, he had the prospectors' boom town destroyed when miners tunnel under the buildings to harvest gold dust that had fallen between the floor boards. This was the part of the script director Joshua Logan liked best, though he would later realize it had been lifted from Blake Edwards' 1966 comedy What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?.

The new script didn't quite fit the show's songs, so Lerner jettisoned more than half of the original score and hired Andre Previn, with whom he was working on the Broadway musical Coco, to write new ones. Then, he cast three non-singers -- Marvin, Eastwood and Seberg -- in the film's leading roles. Of the three, Eastwood came off best, drawing on his lifelong interest in jazz to personalize famous numbers like "I Talk to the Trees." Seberg studied for months to perfect her one song, then was so nervous in the recording studio that she could barely squeak out the notes. Instead, they had her vocals dubbed. Marvin growled his way through his numbers, turning "Wandering Star" into a surprise hit, though many critics thought it sold records purely for its camp value. By contrast, Lerner cast a real singer, Broadway star Harve Presnell, to deliver the film's biggest number, "They Call the Wind Maria," which only showed up the vocal shortcomings of his stars.

Costs on the film skyrocketed when production designer John Truscott convinced Lerner to do all of the filming on location in the Oregon mountains. There they built two separate versions of the mining town No-Name City -- one before gold is struck and a more ornate version for when it becomes a boom town. Since the closest lodgings were a perilous 50-mile drive away, cast and crew were flown to the set by helicopters at a cost of $80,000 a day. Fortunately, the location was also near a hippie camp, which gave the production a cheap source of longhaired extras.

Such a large investment in location shooting would have required all involved to function at peak efficiency, but that was not to be. Lerner had his doctor on set through most of the shoot so he could be well supplied with amphetamines. His constant interference demoralized Logan, who was suffering from manic-depression, though it wouldn't be diagnosed for years. On the first day of shooting, he was nowhere to be seen. They finally found him asleep on a table in the saloon setting.

Nobody seemed to be in control of the money. A team of horses required for one scene that should have required only a week's work were kept on call for months. Truscott hired specialists to weave lace handkerchiefs for extras who would barely be seen. After four months, with winter approaching, they had to rebuild the sets in Hollywood for another month of what was originally planned as a two month shoot. Then Lerner took the film away from Logan and re-cut it himself.

Paint Your Wagon opened to decidedly negative reviews, with many critics seeming to take personal offense at the amount of money spent on the film. But the stars drew in enough ticket-buyers to make it the sixth highest-grossing film in the history of Paramount Pictures. Unfortunately, the expenses were so great, that its strong $14.5 million take couldn't push it out of the red. Once the film had finished its first run, Paramount reissued it with several numbers cut, hoping to make more money by allowing exhibitors to squeeze in an extra show each day. But the result was a musical curiosity: the leads had been reduced to one song each. Fortunately, the cuts were restored when the film was sold to television.

On the positive side for Marvin, he and Logan became fast friends, and he developed a genuine fondness for the director's two teenaged children. Logan was amazed at the contrasts in Marvin's character. Raised as a Southern gentleman, he always tipped his hat for ladies and referred to older men as "sir." But he also started drinking beer the moment he arrived on the set. If his drinking ruined a shot one day, he more than made up for it the next with a letter perfect performance. A few weeks after the film came out, a New York gossip columnist printed a story about director and star having an on-set fight which climaxed with Marvin using Logan's boots "like a dog uses a fire hydrant." When Logan's children pointed out the article, he set the story straight with a letter stating, "Lee Marvin is a very close friend of mine and we will stay friends for many years to come. It is true that we have had a few mild discussions, never any violent ones. Lee Marvin is a great Southern gentleman.... Therefore, when he is sober it is absolutely impossible for him to have done such a thing, and when he is drunk, which he is once in a while I must admit, he is really drunk. He staggers and careens in such a way that he wouldn't have the aim." (Josh Logan, Movie Stars, Real People, and Me).

Producer: Alan Jay Lerner
Director: Joshua Logan
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky, Alan Jay Lerner
Based on the Musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
Cinematography: William A. Fraker
Production Designer: John Truscott
Art Direction: Carl Braunger
Music: Frederick Loewe, Andre Previn, Nelson Riddle
Principal Cast: Lee Marvin (Ben Rumson), Clint Eastwood (Pardner), Jean Seberg (Elizabeth), Harve Presnell (Rotten Luck Willie), Ray Walston (Mad Jack Duncan), Tom Ligon (Horton Fenty).
C-159m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
Paint Your Wagon

Paint Your Wagon

"Howdy, Parson. Welcome to HELL!" Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon Lee Marvin signed on for a five-month tour of hell when he accepted his first $1 million contract to star in the 1969 musical blockbuster, Paint Your Wagon. But though the adaptation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1951 stage hit was mired in chaos and couldn't hope to make back its huge (for that time) $20 million budget, it brought Marvin a hit record and a lifelong friendship with director Joshua Logan. Paint Your Wagon was one of several big-budget musicals put into production in the wake of the phenomenal success of The Sound of Music (1965). But where The Sound of Music had been produced by seasoned veterans, Paint Your Wagon was put in the charge of lyricist/screenwriter Lerner, who had never produced a film before. Since the stage version had succeeded largely on the strength of its Agnes de Mille choreography and in spite of its weak script, Lerner urged writer Paddy Chayefsky, best known for realistic dramas about the struggles of little men, to develop a new story. In place of the original script about the daring romance of a miner's daughter and a Mexican laborer, Chayefsky expanded a subplot about a miner (Marvin) who buys a Mormon settler's less favored wife (Jean Seberg). To keep the film in touch with the swinging '60s, he gave the miner a partner, appropriately named Pardner (Clint Eastwood), with whom he shares the woman. And as a moral lesson, he had the prospectors' boom town destroyed when miners tunnel under the buildings to harvest gold dust that had fallen between the floor boards. This was the part of the script director Joshua Logan liked best, though he would later realize it had been lifted from Blake Edwards' 1966 comedy What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?. The new script didn't quite fit the show's songs, so Lerner jettisoned more than half of the original score and hired Andre Previn, with whom he was working on the Broadway musical Coco, to write new ones. Then, he cast three non-singers -- Marvin, Eastwood and Seberg -- in the film's leading roles. Of the three, Eastwood came off best, drawing on his lifelong interest in jazz to personalize famous numbers like "I Talk to the Trees." Seberg studied for months to perfect her one song, then was so nervous in the recording studio that she could barely squeak out the notes. Instead, they had her vocals dubbed. Marvin growled his way through his numbers, turning "Wandering Star" into a surprise hit, though many critics thought it sold records purely for its camp value. By contrast, Lerner cast a real singer, Broadway star Harve Presnell, to deliver the film's biggest number, "They Call the Wind Maria," which only showed up the vocal shortcomings of his stars. Costs on the film skyrocketed when production designer John Truscott convinced Lerner to do all of the filming on location in the Oregon mountains. There they built two separate versions of the mining town No-Name City -- one before gold is struck and a more ornate version for when it becomes a boom town. Since the closest lodgings were a perilous 50-mile drive away, cast and crew were flown to the set by helicopters at a cost of $80,000 a day. Fortunately, the location was also near a hippie camp, which gave the production a cheap source of longhaired extras. Such a large investment in location shooting would have required all involved to function at peak efficiency, but that was not to be. Lerner had his doctor on set through most of the shoot so he could be well supplied with amphetamines. His constant interference demoralized Logan, who was suffering from manic-depression, though it wouldn't be diagnosed for years. On the first day of shooting, he was nowhere to be seen. They finally found him asleep on a table in the saloon setting. Nobody seemed to be in control of the money. A team of horses required for one scene that should have required only a week's work were kept on call for months. Truscott hired specialists to weave lace handkerchiefs for extras who would barely be seen. After four months, with winter approaching, they had to rebuild the sets in Hollywood for another month of what was originally planned as a two month shoot. Then Lerner took the film away from Logan and re-cut it himself. Paint Your Wagon opened to decidedly negative reviews, with many critics seeming to take personal offense at the amount of money spent on the film. But the stars drew in enough ticket-buyers to make it the sixth highest-grossing film in the history of Paramount Pictures. Unfortunately, the expenses were so great, that its strong $14.5 million take couldn't push it out of the red. Once the film had finished its first run, Paramount reissued it with several numbers cut, hoping to make more money by allowing exhibitors to squeeze in an extra show each day. But the result was a musical curiosity: the leads had been reduced to one song each. Fortunately, the cuts were restored when the film was sold to television. On the positive side for Marvin, he and Logan became fast friends, and he developed a genuine fondness for the director's two teenaged children. Logan was amazed at the contrasts in Marvin's character. Raised as a Southern gentleman, he always tipped his hat for ladies and referred to older men as "sir." But he also started drinking beer the moment he arrived on the set. If his drinking ruined a shot one day, he more than made up for it the next with a letter perfect performance. A few weeks after the film came out, a New York gossip columnist printed a story about director and star having an on-set fight which climaxed with Marvin using Logan's boots "like a dog uses a fire hydrant." When Logan's children pointed out the article, he set the story straight with a letter stating, "Lee Marvin is a very close friend of mine and we will stay friends for many years to come. It is true that we have had a few mild discussions, never any violent ones. Lee Marvin is a great Southern gentleman.... Therefore, when he is sober it is absolutely impossible for him to have done such a thing, and when he is drunk, which he is once in a while I must admit, he is really drunk. He staggers and careens in such a way that he wouldn't have the aim." (Josh Logan, Movie Stars, Real People, and Me). Producer: Alan Jay Lerner Director: Joshua Logan Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky, Alan Jay Lerner Based on the Musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe Cinematography: William A. Fraker Production Designer: John Truscott Art Direction: Carl Braunger Music: Frederick Loewe, Andre Previn, Nelson Riddle Principal Cast: Lee Marvin (Ben Rumson), Clint Eastwood (Pardner), Jean Seberg (Elizabeth), Harve Presnell (Rotten Luck Willie), Ray Walston (Mad Jack Duncan), Tom Ligon (Horton Fenty). C-159m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

You show me in them commandments where it says a woman cain't have two husbands.
- Rumson
There AIN'T no commandment like that.
- Pardner
I give you the boy. Give me back the man.
- Ben Rumson
Now, don't tell me you've never been with a woman.
- Ben Rumson
No, sir I haven't.
- Horton
Well, that, that's terrible! Did you know you could go blind?
- Ben Rumson
You should read the Bible, Mr. Rumson.
- Mrs. Fenty
I have read the Bible, Mrs. Fenty.
- Ben Rumson
Didn't that discourage you about drinking?
- Mrs. Fenty
No, but it sure killed my appetite for readin'!
- Ben Rumson
There's two kinds of people, them goin' somewhere and them goin' nowhere. And's that what's true.
- Ben Rumson

Trivia

This film about the California Gold Rush was actually shot in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.

Many extras in the film were actually some "hippies" who just happened to be living in the woods near where the crew built the sets.

The film went notoriously over budget and was a box office failure when originally released. This project reportedly inspired Clint Eastwood to have more control over film budgets and schedules by starting his own production company.

Jean Seberg had her singing voice dubbed by Rita Gordon while Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin did their own singing. Although it was a musical, no choreographer was ever hired.

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Oregon. Blown up to 70mm for some roadshow presentations.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 9, 1969

Released in United States March 1996

Released in United States January 1998

Shown at Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival in Palm Springs, California January 8-19, 1998.

Film was Joshua Logan's last as director.

Alan Jay Lerner has a bit part in the film.

Released in United States Fall October 9, 1969

Released in United States March 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The Films of Jean Seberg" March 15-28, 1996.)

Released in United States January 1998 (Shown at Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival in Palm Springs, California January 8-19, 1998.)