Logan's rotund version of Lerner and Loewe's musical Western may lack actors (Presnell excepted) who can actually sing, but that's compensated for by a solid plot involving a farcical discovery of gold, and the growth of a mining town (No Name City) that develops from amoral shantydom to respectability and a holocaust.
What the $17 million-plus film (from the 1951 Lerner-Loewe Broadway musical) lacks in a skimpy story line it makes up in the music and expert choreography. There are no obvious ‘musical numbers’. All the songs, save one or two, work neatly, quietly and well into the script. The actors used their own voices, which are pleasant enough and add to the note of authenticity.
An amiable, $20-million musical. That's a high price to pay for something that is more an expression of good intentions than evidence of sustained cinematic accomplishment. However, because amiability is never in over abundant supply, especially in Hollywood super-productions, the movie can be enjoyed more often than simply tolerated.
It doesn't even inspire a put-down. It just lies there in my mind -- a big, heavy lump. But in the midst of it, like a visitor from another movie, Lee Marvin desperately labors to inject some flash and sparkle. And he succeeds in bringing whole scenes to life. A good actor can do this, but it's a waste when he must.
Paint Your Wagon divided audiences and critics. With its central three-way marriage, debauchery, polygamy, Paddy Chayevsky script, and unconventional stars, it was too damn weird and adult for family audiences and too corny, old-fashioned, and bloated for the druggies and stoners.
Mind you, Eastwood went on the star with an orang-utan, twice, so this is only his third maddest film. Although, it could be his dullest. Which was one thing no one would of expected of this madcap enterprise, born of a what-the-heck attitude from its macho stars — that it would struggle so hard to be fun.