I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Paint Your Wagon

tn_paintyourwagonPAINT YOUR WAGON was next on my Clint Eastwood list. Holy shit, you’re telling me Clint and Lee Marvin did a western together? How did I never see this one before?

The music on the credits is pretty corny, but I forgive it. Right off the bat you got Lee as a drunk old hustler in a top hat, he meets young Clint and declares him his partner. This is good shit.

Wait, what is Clint doing with that guitar? Hold on, is he crooning? Wait a– is this–

Holy shit, this is a musical!

mp_paintyourwagonClint’s singing actually isn’t that bad. True, it makes him seem more Elvis in FLAMING STAR than Man With No Name. And more like the old singing cowboys than the man who sang the theme songs for ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN and GRAN TORINO. This makes him seem less gritty and more dreamy, singing about a lost love. But it’s fine. The trouble is when Lee Marvin starts singing. Not just that, but singing in character. And there are a couple musical numbers that aren’t even Clint or Lee, they’re just some of the supporting characters singing about how the town works, like they tend to do in musicals for exposition or for filler or something. The movie is 164 minutes so I think they could easily cut the songs out and still have a movie.

Most of the songs don’t matter to the plot anyway. There’s one that tells you that Lee is nomadic at heart, that helped. And there was a good chuckle when the preacher sang about how sinful the town was and everybody liked his song so much they cheered and held up their drinks at the end. But otherwise you wouldn’t miss much by cutting them. Maybe they were just put in there as placeholders, or as a joke for the gag reel, but then they forgot to take them out. Must’ve been embarrassing when they realized that at the premiere. Whoops.

Despite that editing error I must admit I really liked this movie. To be frankly honest I did know it was a musical, and that’s why I never watched it before. I was just trying to cross it off my list, I thought I’d watch it across a couple days and get it over with. Instead I found myself watching it in one sitting (songs and all, no fast forwarding, same as when I watched BROWN BUNNY) and I couldn’t believe how good it was.

(I wonder why BROWN BUNNY didn’t have an intermission like this one did?)

It’s not a serious western. More of a comedy, like CAT BALLOU. But it’s all about the friendship between Lee and Clint. Lee is a drunk asshole, he leaves big tabs for “Pardner” to pay, and gets in trouble with his stubbornness. But alot of times he’s right, too. Throughout their friendship they basically build and then destroy their own boomtown. So it’s kind of an epic.

It all starts when a Mormon rolls into town sporting two wives. This town is all men, and they’re lonely, so they demand this Mormon put one of his wives up for auction, out of fairness. He decides to sell off Jean Seberg, and Lee mistakenly wins the auction due to drunkenness. Talk about a fantasy – alot of alcoholics end up with shitloads of AAA batteries or black and white film or some shit like that that they don’t need and don’t remember buying. Rarely do they find out they got drunk and bought Jean Seberg. I mean, how many people do you know who have problems that good?

Well, the marriage goes okay after Lee agrees to build her a cabin. But since he’s got the only wife in town he starts getting paranoid, like if he parked a Lamborghini in a bad neighborhood. He thinks everybody’s trying to steal his woman. He gets crazy. He recognizes it’s a problem too, so he comes up with a plan: they’re gonna go kidnap some prostitutes from a stagecoach and use them to open up a brothel. Very simple – give the citizens open access to other vaginas and this takes the pressure off the one in his house.

But while he’s gone overseeing the great ho robbery he leaves Pardner to look after his wife, and of course they fall in love. I mean, what did he think was gonna happen, leaving his girl alone with Clint. He was gonna teach her to box? Of course she falls in love with Pardner, he’s a better singer than Lee, and he plays guitar. Ladies love that shit. So Pardner tries to do the honorable thing, admit his feelings and leave. But Lee figures if she’s in love with Pardner too then he doesn’t want to stay, he oughta cut his losses and be the one to leave. Then, after some discussion Seberg convinces them both to stay, and do a reverse Mormon marriage. They’re both her husbands.

Up until this point I was wondering what the deal was. You can’t get too much more heterosexual male than a western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin trying to get themselves some wives. It would be hard to fit a car race in there. So how do you sell something like that as a musical, a medium with more of a female and gay male demographic? Well, by having it feature a woman who convinces Clint and Lee to be her bitches. And personally I think it makes them cooler that they were willing to go with that. They get even more “just don’t give a fuck” points for being co-husbands in this thing. I mean, they’re already Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, it’s a little late to question their masculinity.

I guess PAINT YOUR WAGON started as a stage musical, and director Joshua Logan was mainly a Broadway director. But the script was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky, the legendary writer best known for writing NETWORK and for being the guy that other writers are supposedly not as good as, as in “he’s no Paddy Chayefsky, but…”

But this one’s really witty, whoever wrote it is a Paddy Chayefsky. It’s a funny story propelled along by the charisma and loyalty of this friendship, and it leads to some great spectacle like the scene where the entire town is swallowed into the earth (because they built a tunnel under it to try to steal some gold – you know how these guys get) and Lee stumbles drunkenly through the saloon pouring himself drinks while everything collapses around him. Kind of reminds me of that great scene in Pirates of the Caribbean part 3 where the bad guy tries to walk off his ship as it’s exploding. But this is Lee Marvin so he’s not deluded. He pulls it off.

Yes, it’s true, I liked PAINT YOUR WAGON. the end

THIS REVIEW SUPPORTS EQUAL RIGHTS. (they had the gay pride parade today so I thought Paint Your Wagon would tie in well.)
THIS REVIEW SUPPORTS EQUAL RIGHTS. (they had the gay pride parade today so I thought Paint Your Wagon would tie in nicely.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 27th, 2010 at 5:48 pm and is filed under Musical, Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Paint Your Wagon”

  1. I’d paint HER wagon if you know what mean

    I’m sorry…

  2. I always thought this was a goof from a Simpson’s episode until I actually looked it up. Truth is always stranger than fiction…

  3. Yeah, Homer & Bart’s reactions when they realize Paint Your Wagon is a musical is priceless.

    I gotta admit, those gay pride parades look entertaining, based on CNN’s coverage today, probably the most fun thing to do in town when they happen. I think I’m capable now of not being icked out even when I’m surrounded by LGBT, so I’m gonna try to be a spectator one of these years. Seems like a good place to take a date. I know some girls who would get a kick out of seeing the parade up close.

  4. Mouth — you should come here to SF. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we have one of those parades.

    “Clint’s singing actually isn’t that bad.”

    Ahhhhhh-hahahahahaha! Hilarious as always, Vern.

    But it’s true, Lee is worse. It’s like Brad in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE making Tom look like Olivier. That was generous of him.

    “Rarely do they find out they got drunk and bought Jean Seberg. I mean, how many people do you know who have problems that good?”

    Do you have any idea how much Jean Seberg can EAT?

    I’d forgotten about the JULES AND JIM business. Well, it was 1969.

  5. My vote goes to Wade Gustafson:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkmvwCpcZlM&feature=related

    Yep, that’s the old man from FARGO. NO JEAN, NO MONEY!

    And that’s enough outta me.

  6. Darth Irritable

    June 27th, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    And Vern officially becomes the first person in the world to compare a Clint Eastwood/Lee Marvin joint to a Chloe Sevigny blowjob.

    Bravo sir – BRAVO!

  7. Higharolla Kockamamie

    June 27th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Lee Marvin had accepted the role of Pike Bishop for The Wild Bunch before pulling out to star in Paint Your Wagon for a bigger paycheck according to wikipedia, I don’t know what to think of that, but I feel pretty bummed out alluvasudden.

  8. I watched this movie for the first time semi-recently, and I have to admit I was bored as fuck for the first hour or so. But once it dropped that this was a movie about Jean Seberg having a three-way with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, this movie had my undivided attention. I did not see that shit coming.

  9. ChopperSullivan

    June 27th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I wish I hadn’t read your post, Higharolla. The possibility that The Wild Bunch could have been even more badass is hurting my brain.

  10. I’ve also avoided watching this in its entirety. I mean, the Simpsons spoof made it so intriguing I just don’t think the actual movie can live up to that. (They don’t actually sing, “Gonna paint your wagon, gonna paint it good. He ain’t braggin’, he’s gonna coat that wood,” do they, Vern?)

    The length is daunting but I can see liking this along the same lines as Vern so I might get one step closer to it.

  11. Hey Vern, I don’t see Two Mules for Sister Sarah in your review list. Surely you’ve seen that Clint Eastwood/Shirley MacLaine match up. If not, definitely check that one out. Tons of fun.

  12. When I read about the plot of PG-13 movies like this, it makes me wonder how anyone can claim the movies of yesteryear were any more wholesome than today’s…good review, Vern

  13. This movie is the reason why my mother never wanted to watch Dirty Harry. She hates musicals and for any reason she always thought that Dirty Harry was that Clint musical. :D
    I recently corrected her mistake, although she still hasn’t watched it yet.

  14. Vern, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the great significance PAINT held forward in Eastwood’s career. Apparently that production was such a mess, money spent like water (alot like KELLY’S HEROES later) that pissed Clint enough that he decided his new production company Malpaso man fast, efficient productions which won’t waste schedules or budgets.

    Hell I even bet a big budget war epic like FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS was a tight-run ship.

    FTopel – Oh yes, back when Clint’s career was skyrocketing, but still took second billing to Shirley. First movie too with Don Siegel, wasn’t it?

  15. And for the record, Vern will dig THE BEGUILED, only instance I’m aware of where Eastwood plays a villain. Seriously I’ve never understood why its never quite escaped obscurity.

    I know Siegal thought it was his best movie….and you know, he might be right.

  16. I really love TWO MULES. I think it’s my favorite of Clint’s American westerns (not counting UNFORGIVEN). The arrow/gunpowder scene is a classic, and the ending is surprisingly bloody for what is basically a romantic comedy.

  17. oh man, THE BEGUILED is an excellent movie

  18. Good to see Vern got a positive opinion on PAINT YOUR WAGON. I think the movie is about to get a reaprisal.

  19. That SIMPSONS parody really is fantastic, too bad it was the start of a clip show episode that is possibly the least entertaining episode ever, and yes I know how low the show has sometimes sunk since then.

    THE BEGUILED does suffer from the slight cringe factor of being one of those films were every woman in the world just can’t resist Clint Eastwood. It’s only cringy because it became a major trope of his directorial carrer, where it often seemed like hilarious egomania (cf. PALE RIDER). I know in real life Eastwood could get those kind of reactions, but that’s because in real life he’s Clint Fucking Eastwood, not some mysterious horseman or whomever.

    BTW the first Eastwood/Seigel was COOGAN’S BLUFF, which Vern reviewed

  20. Pacman – Thanks for the correction.

    Of course I don’t think of “cringe” with BEGUILED. I mean you have the spinster-type headmaster of that girls school who hasn’t gotten laid in quite in part due to that war and well that whole crazy unelaborated shit with her brother. Then young teenage girls…add all that sex tension and closed up horniess with young Clint, who was at that time a handsome sexy bitch.

    PALE RIDER, sure you might be right. Though that one I always saw it more as a mysterious dangerous man kicking ass, alot of elements together which tend to excite some women.

  21. But then you throw in the Sonia Braga rape scene from The Rookie and you get the sense that Clint is a little tired of all these crazy bitches throwing themselves at him all the time. Can’t a guy even get held for ransom in peace?

  22. So people actually know about the movie specifically because of THE SIMPSONS? That’s funny. And it’s probably the first exposure to Lee Marvin for many of them.

    Or maybe it’s not funny; maybe it’s just inevitable that the younger generation knows older celebrities through parodies first. Like how comedians (or Bugs Bunny) would do Cagney, even though I had never seen the real Cagney in anything. I just knew that there was some guy who said “you dirty rat” and talked funny, and when I finally DID see a Cagney film, it wasn’t much like the impressions . I suppose there are 12-year-olds out there who have seen a hundred Nicholson and Pacino sendups without really getting who is being parodied. And then if they eventually see THE GODFATHER or CHINATOWN, they don’t get it because those actors hadn’t fallen into their exaggerated personas yet. With Al in particular, there’s a distinct pre/post SCARFACE split.

    I just went and re-watched that clip. Those SIMPSONS writers are cheats, because Lee Van Cleef was NOT in PYW. The fucking nerve of those guys. But the vocal impression of Lee’s singing is dead on, and Homer and Bart are right: the one time Lee and Clint are paired up and we get THIS?

  23. Jareth Cutestory

    June 28th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    “Here comes Lee Marvin, thank god, he’s always drunk and violent.”

    Awesome line in a truly wretched episode.

  24. caruso_stalker217

    June 28th, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    “Simpsons Christmas Stories.” The worst of all time, guys, I’m fucking telling you. Worse than the Ricky Gervais episode. They were really scraping the bottom of the barrel with that one. It’s so bad you might get ball cancer. It’s that goddamn toxic.

  25. caruso_stalker217

    June 28th, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    The worst segment from that terrible episode:

    “When Bart and Lisa find Grampa trying to stick a bear trap on top of the chimney, Grampa tells them that he is trying to get his revenge on Santa Claus. Bart asks why, and to their dismay, Grampa tells them one of his many stories.

    Back in World War II, Grampa and his brother Cyrus (never mentioned until now, and never to be mentioned again) were fighting off Japanese planes when Cyrus got shot down. Shortly after, Grampa, who was accompanied by Mr. Burns, also get shot down and are stranded on an island. After a few months, they see a plane in the sky, and Mr. Burns shoots it down. However, when they go over to investigate, they see that it is actually Santa Claus. They build him a new sleigh and gather up all the presents. When Santa is about to leave, Mr. Burns knocks him unconscious with a coconut and flies away in the sleigh and claims that he is going to keep all the presents. Grampa catches up to him on Prancer, who has been left behind because Santa could not find him, and jumps onboard the sleigh. After he beats Mr. Burns with a tricycle, he gives the sleigh back to Santa. As Santa leaves, he tells Grampa that he’ll be back in a few days. However, he never comes back, and Grampa has to get off using a jet ski he made out of coconuts.

    Bart and Lisa believe that it is just another one of Grampa’s far-fetched tales, but when they hear a thump in the den, they find that Santa is there. He tells them that Cyrus did not die, but instead crashed into Tahiti. Santa takes Grampa there, and they meet up with Cyrus and his fifteen wives. Santa explains to Grampa that he did not come back for him on the island due to his procrastination and eventually feeling embarrassed about it.”

    That barely scratches the surface. It’s just… it’s… God, that show sucks.

  26. Yeah, The Simpsons hit some lows over the last 10 years or so. It’s still better than anything Seth McFarlane did since he stopped writing for Johnny Bravo, or every South Park episode after “Good Times With Weapons”. The animated comedy is in a real creative slump right now. God bless Futurama and The Venture Bros.

  27. CJ Holden – I think Matt Groening has played with his FUTURAMA toy more than play in the SIMPSONS sandbox for the last decade or so. And why not? He and his people have exausted every possible joke to be taken from the domestic sitcom formula.

    Now some more years left on that wacky office comedy!

    I would vote for Nixon’s head.

  28. It’s no secret that Groening has put all his energy into Futurama since production on it started and doesn’t really care for The Simpsons anymore as much as he once did.

  29. Jareth Cutestory

    June 29th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    CJ Holden: With all due respect, you do know that the episodes listed below came aired after the GOOD TIMES WITH WEAPONS episode, right?

    AWESOM-O
    GOOBACKS
    PRE-SCHOOL
    STUPID SPOILED WHORE VIDEO PLAYSET

  30. I give you Awesome-O, but to be honest, South Park is really bad these days.

  31. Jareth Cutestory

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Not a fan of the gay fish song, CJ? That one took a couple viewings to grow on me.

    But you’re probably right. Ah well, they had a good run.

  32. The Gay Fish song came to a time when I already stopped watching the show. (The WOW episode was the exact point.) I just got tired of their schtick of ripping stuff from the headlines, just to make some gross-out jokes about it and fill the missing parts with “Look, we just made a popculture reference”-humor, just to declare in the end that the people they made fun off are crazy, but the other people are crazy too, so the whole world is crazy, isn’t that funny, haha.
    And I hate that they made a real psychopath out of Cartman. It was fun when they ended “Scott Tenorman Must Die” that way, but watching every week how he tries to kill his friends or wipe out the jews is only funny for that long.
    From time to time I catch a new episode on TV, but usually I switch the channel after less than five minutes.

  33. BTW, that FUTURAMA series premiere (take 2) was good. About as good as any other FUTURAMA episode, so that’s nice.

    Zap Brannigan is awesome.

    It’ll fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!

    *groan*

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