Without a doubt, Paint Your Wagon (1969) has got to be the most bizarre movie musical I have ever watched. Adapted for the big screen by Paddy Chayefsky from Alan Jay Lerner’s original 1951 stage production, the film stars Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood (his one and only appearance in a musical) and Jean Seberg. Although I have never seen a performance of the musical on stage, I read up on it after viewing the film. There are… rather quite a number of differences between the two.
Far and away my favorite performance in the film is Marvin’s wordly, gristly Forty-Niner character, name of Ben Rumson. He also performs my favorite musical number, Wanderin’ Star. Marvin famously insisted on performing all of the singing parts himself, even though he had no real training as a vocalist. His rendition of this song actually became a chart-topping hit in the UK, beating out The Beatles’ Let it Be.
My second favorite musical performance in the film has got to be Harve Presnell’s rendition of, They Call the Wind Mariah. Fun fact, Harve Presnell also famously played the part of Wade Gustafson, father of Jean Lundegaard, in the Coen Brothers’ inimitable classic Fargo.
Anyhow, if you have 3 hours to kill, and you like show tunes about mining for gold, and if you’re any kind of Paddy Chayefsky fan, Paint Your Wagon is well worth watching.