Clint Eastwood Western Embarrassment Gets Surprising Upgrade


We aren’t sure who asked for that upgrade, but the critics certainly didn’t.

Legendary critic Roger Ebert once wrote, “The fact is, Paint Your Wagon doesn’t inspire a review. It doesn’t even inspire a put-down. It just lies there in my mind — a big, heavy lump.” Christopher Null for said of the film, “About as fun as painting a wagon.”

If you’ve never seen or even heard of Paint Your Wagon, it takes place in California during the Gold Rush and features two of the biggest western stars. Lee Marvin is Ben Rumson who comes upon a wrecked wagon containing a dead man and a man who survived the wreck named Pardner, played by Clint Eastwood.

The men form a partnership after discovering gold and they even come to an arrangement to marry the same woman, who is played by Jean Seberg. However, conflict ensues when a traditional and religious family comes into the picture and the gold mines start running low.

A Lot Of Bad Singers Trashing Each Other

The film Paint Your Wagon was adapted from the hit 1951 musical and is, in fact, also a musical. It’s hard to imagine Clint Eastwood being in a musical, but it happened. Critic Emanuel Levy wrote, ” … Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, are miscast and required to sing.” At one point, Roger Ebert refers to Eastwood’s singing as “whining.”

Reportedly Jean Seberg’s singing voice was dubbed by professional singer Anita Gordon.

Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin did their own singing. Marvin’s rendition of “Wand’rin’ Star” became a number one hit in the UK and in Ireland for two weeks. Still, it’s been reported that Jean Seberg described Marvin’s voice “like rain gurgling down a rusty pipe.”


Rewriters, Over-Spending, And Too Much Drinking

Paint Your Wagon was released in October 1969, a time when musicals were rapidly going out of fashion, especially with younger audiences. The film’s original budget was $10 million and it ended up costing almost double that. The movie was behind schedule and the critics weren’t kind.

Screen Rant says Clint Eastwood was frustrated with all the rewrites to the original script. Reportedly, Eastwood said he saw three different versions of Paint Your Wagon: the director’s cut, the producers’ cut, and the studio’s cut. He said the director’s cut was the best, but that was not the one that was used.

It’s also been reported that Lee Marvin drank real alcohol throughout filming, even though director Joshua Logan fought him about it.

Decide For Yourself

Paint Your Wagon was far from the huge box-office success the producers had hoped it would be, though not all of the reviews were bad. Larry King for the Miami Herald wrote, ” … a fine score and a superb performance by Lee Marvin. The music is way above regular caliber and even Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg rise to the occasion.”