Any hidden meaning in the movie title "Paint Your Wagon"?

I have long been a fan of the movie Paint Your Wagon, with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin showing off their lyrical talents. The meaning of the title always bothered me, though. Other than for medicine shows, did anyone actually paint their wagons in the 1800’s? Then I recalled that Paint was often a sobriquet for a horse, which got me to thinking that maybe the title referred to hitching ole Paint to the wagon. If I’m preparing for a wagon trip, I think I’d be more likely to hitch my horse to it than look for a 19th century equivalent of Earl Scheib. Am I reading too much into the title? Am I missing the boat completely? I humbly seek edification on the question.

I always took “paint your wagon” as meaning “get your shit together and move on.” An unpainted wagon will rot - a painted one is protected from the elements and fit for travel.

Love the movie, but I really wish they’d cast leads who could sing. Harve Presnell and Ray Walston are the only Broadway vets in the bunch!

My father always used the phrase “paint the town red”, I always thought of painting your wagon red.

AFAIK Clint Eastwood’s only signing role. Great movie from beginning to end.

Gonna paint our wagon
Gonna paint it good

[Homer]They’re singing! They’re singing, Marge! Why aren’t they killing each other?[/Homer]

I don’t know if it qualifies as a hidden meaning, but they do put forth the proposition that the best things in life are dirty.

I never read any hidden meaning into the title. As **silenus **said, an unpainted wagon will rot from the elements, so get your shit together and paint it. Painting your wagon meant you were committed to making a long trip.

And it’s obvious that the stars of the movie weren’t chosen for their singing ability. When Lee Marvin sang “Wand’rin Star,” it was assumed that it would be dubbed. But they decided to use his version anyway.

Moderator Action

Since this is about a movie, let’s move it to CS.

Moving thread from General Questions to Cafe Society.

I consider this movie to be proof that Jean Seberg was the worst singer in history. Her singing was dubbed, and if you’re not good enough to sing alongside Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood…

Honkeytonk Man. He played a would-be country singer with TB.

Here are the lyrics -
Where am I goin’?
I don’t know
Where am I headin’?
I ain’t certain
All I know
Is I am on my way

When will I be there?
I don’t know
When will I get there?
I ain’t certain
All that I know
Is I am on my way

Gotta dream boy
Gotta song
Paint your wagon
[And come along - Sung In German]
The song is sung to a montage of people throwing over their old lives and chasing off after the gold. I think “paint your wagon” is less, “get your shit together” and more, “to hell with your shit; be merry and gay and follow your impractical dream”.

Hey, at least it didn’t star Pierce Brosnan. I like the man but Mamma Mia! was a horrorshow.

On the film, I think the hidden message was “In the Old West, whorehouses and threesomes were considered just fine until religion came along and ruined it all.”

A lesson to live by if there ever was one!

Clint can handle “Gold Fever” because the range isn’t that great, but on “I Talk to the Trees” it becomes obvious that a singer he ain’t. Same thing with Lee - on “The Best Things in Life are Dirty” he’s carried by Ray and the others. On “Wand’ring Star” he’s all alone, and with good reason.

“Signing” would have been an improvement over his singing.

I still don’t think he has the range.

Unfortunately I can’t find the article which covers this topic, which is frustrating, because I saw online within the last few months, but it said that Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote the 'book" for the original play, used “Paint Your Wagon” to mean “head west”, which in the case of the play was to the California gold fields. More specifically, the phrase referred to the practice of settlers painting things like “California or Bust” on the sides of their wagons before starting out.

The play was originally intended to give a more accurate portrayal of the U.S. West than the common movie “shoot-'em-ups”. Lerner did extensive research, and many of the play’s scenes – for example the man selling his wife to another man and getting a receipt – were based on true stories he had uncovered.

^ Research ruins everything. :smiley:

I think it’s just a euphemism for sex.

What? Isn’t everything?

You don’t really listen to him sing “Wand’ring Star”; you just feel it through the soles of your feet.

I thought it was a euphemism for not-quite sex. “The whorehouse is closed–I guess I am going to have to paint my wagon tonight.”