‘A Humane, Practical, and Beautiful Solution’

Megan Woller

in The Oxford Handbook of Musical Theatre Screen Adaptations

Published in print August 2019 | ISBN: 9780190469993
Published online July 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190490010 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

‘A Humane, Practical, and Beautiful Solution’

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This chapter deals with sexuality in the much-maligned film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, the least popular of the team’s three 1960s film adaptations (My Fair Lady and Camelot are the others). Situating the movie in the sexual revolution and second-wave feminism of the 1960s, the chapter examines the characterization of Elizabeth and her only song, ‘A Million Miles Away Behind the Door,’ as well as her polyandrous marriage to Ben and Pardner. The chapter also reflects on not only how adaptations change the source but—due to changing social conventions and expectations—why they must. In the case of Paint Your Wagon, the film matches Lerner’s depiction of triangular relationships in My Fair Lady and Camelot, deletes Jennifer and Julio, the principal romantic couple of the stage version, omits the Mexican American perspective represented by Julio, adds the new character Pardner, and places Ben Rumson into a polyandrous relationship with Pardner and Elizabeth. Thanks to the shift from the Production Code to the Ratings System in 1968, Paint Your Wagon could portray a more liberal sexual situation than would have been the case over a decade earlier when the stage version appeared, and the screenplay exploits this possibility in a variety of ways, thereby reflecting its time.

Keywords: Paint Your Wagon; Lerner; Loewe; polyandry; Ratings System

Article.  11185 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History ; Music and Media

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