Paint Your Wagon
Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours
My first exposure to the musical western that is Paint Your Wagon (1969) was from the 9th season clip show of The Simpsons entitled “All Singing, All Dancing.” In the episode, Bart and Homer are looking forward to a shoot-’em-up western with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Instead, they are shocked to find that the film is actually a musical. While the actual film itself did not contain any of the bits from The Simpsons, part of me wished it did . . . or at least an explanation as to why the title is Paint Your Wagon. Needless to say, I knew going into this film that it was going to be a musical, and I was prepared for that.
One does wonder if the musical hides topics and themes that aren’t really that appropriate in a non-musical setting. I’m not sure this film was comedic enough to have polygamy, greed, and debauchery as its main themes without interspersing some songs throughout for buffer. I do know that this film wouldn’t be almost three hours long if it was missing its songs. Case in point, the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion (1938) is only 90 minutes, whereas the exact same plot that appears in My Fair Lady (1964) is three hours long.
I do admit that I was shocked to find Clint Eastwood had such a lovely singing voice, but it wasn’t nearly enough to save this film for me. One or two of the songs were memorable (“They Call the Wind Maria” and “Wand’rin’ Star” in particular), but I don’t think they justify a whole film. Part of me almost thinks, if you want a western-themed musical, you might be better off with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) or (even better) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). As for me, I think I’ll stick with the version presented in The Simpsons for now.
Not your standard Clint Eastwood western, I give Paint Your Wagon 2.0 stars out of 5.