The movie was not a box office success. Filming ran over budget, way over time, and let’s face it, there’s a really good reason Clint Eastwood is not famous for his singing ability. The movie is also long.
Two of the songs became famous: “They call the Wind Maria,” and “Wandering Star.” The movie tells the story of the American West, the dirty, corrupt, flash-in-the-pan part of the story.
Any of my readers who have been in the middle of nowhere, and wondering how-in-the-hell you got there and if you’ll ever get out of the hole you dug, can sympathize. And Harve Presnell had a heck of a voice. Good rule of life: never bet against a gambler named Rotten Luck Willie.
I went through a decade where this seemed to be the theme of my life. Lee Marvin’s other main song, “The First Thing You Know” is the anthem of anyone who kept looking over the next hill to see if there’s anything better, and I quote it in jest when talking about the views of the modern environmental movement (“G-d made the mountains/ G-d made the sky./ G-d made the people,/ G-d knows why!”)
The movie came as the great musicals were fading from the screen, which is part of the problem. Length is another difficulty, and that it’s not light and humorous all the way through. Pardner really isn’t cut out to be a miner. The female lead, Elizabeth, just wants four walls and a roof and a stable life. That’s not the version of the American West that was popular in 1969.
But I grew up listening to the music, and watching it whenever it came on. I really disliked Elizabeth when I was younger, but I grew to understand her. Still don’t agree, though.