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A Michigan farmer and a prospector form a partnership in the California gold country. Their adventures include buying and sharing a wife, hijacking a stage, kidnaping six prostitutes, and turning their mining camp into a boomtown. Along the way there is plenty of drinking, gambling, and singing. They even find time to do some creative gold mining. Written by
David J. Kiseleski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin - in a musical? Yes, and it works rather well.
No expense was spared by Paramount in assembling the behind-camera talent. Lerner and Loewe's successful stage show was beefed up by Andre Previn's compositions and Nelson Riddle's arrangements, and a script by Paddy Chayefsky. If Clint and Lee aren't exactly Mario Lanza and Tito Gobbi, they are good enough. Clint sings timidly but tunefully ("I Talk To The Trees", "Gold Fever") and Marvin's growly "Wandering Star" was a big chart success back in 1969. The songs are strong, the lyrics clever and the choreography slick and busy. At two and three-quarter hours, the film is rather too long, but it contains plenty of interesting things, including some excellent comedy.
No-Name Town is a rough and ready prospectors' settlement, one of many such ramshackle communities springing up during the California Gold Rush. Two very different men link up as partners and grow into inseperable friends. 'Pardner' (Eastwood) is a straight, solid farmer from the Mid West, while Ben Rumson (Marvin) is a hell-raising wildman from no place in particular. When a mormon auctions one of his wives (Elizabeth, played by Jean Seberg), Rumson buys her. Things get complicated when Pardner falls in love with Elizabeth, and she falls in love with .... er, both men.
Added interest is provided by the arrival of a bunch of French whores and a party of rescued wagon-trainers (this last was drawn from a true story).
Good things include a barnstorming performance from Marvin, radiating enormous personality and a real flair for comedy. His career flowered late, but he was at his best in the late sixties ("Point Blank", "Hell In The Pacific", and of course this one). Previn's musical interlude which introduces the Parson (Alan Dexter) is superb, leading into one of the film's best songs, "Here It Is". The comical discords of the musical passage are a joy in themselves, and they pave the way perfectly for the Parson, who is at odds with everybody. "Hand Me Down That Can Of Beans" is rendered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, guesting in the movie. The boys obviously decided to stay on, because they crop up in various shots throughout the film. Mad Jack is played with manic zest and a peculiar British accent by Ray Walston, none other than TV's "My Favourite Martian".
The interminable gag of the collapsing tunnels stand as a metaphor of the film's shortcomings - over-elaborate, and over-long.
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