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McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Trailer
1:57 | Trailer
A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.

Director:

Robert Altman

Writers:

Edmund Naughton (novel), Robert Altman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Warren Beatty ... John McCabe
Julie Christie ... Constance Miller
Rene Auberjonois ... Sheehan
William Devane ... The Lawyer
John Schuck ... Smalley
Corey Fischer ... Mr. Elliott
Bert Remsen ... Bart Coyle
Shelley Duvall ... Ida Coyle
Keith Carradine ... Cowboy
Michael Murphy ... Sears
Antony Holland ... Hollander
Hugh Millais Hugh Millais ... Butler
Manfred Schulz Manfred Schulz ... Kid
Jace Van Der Veen Jace Van Der Veen ... Breed (as Jace Vander Veen)
Jackie Crossland Jackie Crossland ... Lily
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Storyline

Set in winter in the Old West. Charismatic but dumb John McCabe arrives in a young Pacific Northwest town to set up a whorehouse/tavern. The shrewd Mrs. Miller, a professional madam, arrives soon after construction begins. She offers to use her experience to help McCabe run his business, while sharing in the profits. The whorehouse thrives and McCabe and Mrs. Miller draw closer, despite their conflicting intelligences and philosophies. Soon, however, the mining deposits in the town attract the attention of a major corporation, which wants to buy out McCabe along with the rest. He refuses, and his decision has major repercussions for him, Mrs. Miller, and the town. Written by John J. Magee <magee@helix.mgh.harvard.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Purveyors of Paradise. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Western

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ned Beatty was at one point considered for a role in the film but Robert Altman felt that he was a little too young for the role. See more »

Goofs

At 1:46:02 into the film, when McCabe is hiding in the door of the hardware store, a leg and a foot of a crew-member are visible reflected in the window on the left. After the cutaway it is even clearer when the person moves. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
John McCabe: [muttering to himself] I told you... Think I'm stupid?... S'exactly what I said. Six, six of 'em...
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Alternate Versions

New 4K digital restoration, from Criterion, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. from 2016, 2 discs, lots of new extras See more »


Soundtracks

Sisters of Mercy
Written and Performed by Leonard Cohen
See more »

User Reviews

 
Making the Meaningless Meaningful.
17 November 2018 | by doublesquidsSee all my reviews

McCabe and (Mrs. Miller. Yes, Mrs. Not "Ms.")

It was a good script. The bad guys were corrupt businessmen. So what? Love did not conquer all. But it was there. It was heroic. Why?

The setting: old, wet, miserable. It seemed futile. It turned out to be futile. It seemed absurd. It was absurd.

The preacher was absurd. His cartoonish "gun control" was absurd. His absurd behavior led to the church fire.

The Leonard Cohen music tied it all together. Leonard gave it meaning while his lyrics explicitly addressed the absurd:

> "you knew I was a stranger."

> "about this or any other matter."

> "you could read their address by the moon."

> "Yes you who must leave everything / that you cannot control / it begins with your family / but soon it comes round to your soul

What made this a good film? It reminded me of the French writer Albert Camus who died in a car crash in 1960. His literary mission was the unblinking confrontation of the absurdity of life, and the heroic response to such an absurdity: rebellion.

Camus used the Greek myth of Sisyphus, condemned to eternal frustration by the gods, having to push a rock uphill only to see it roll back down day after day.

Camus wrote: "We might imagine Sisyphus happy."

Neither of the lead characters of the film were conventional. They rebelled against the conventional wisdom represented by the preacher, and they knew that there was such a thing as right and wrong, even though they didn't know how they knew it.

Did the movie accurately represent American history? In my view it did. The "seamy side," but accurate.

Where was it shot?

"The film was shot in West Vancouver and in Squamish (BC, not WA), almost in sequential order, a rarity for films." (Wikipedia)

Was the plot "camusien"? Yes. The characters worked against Sisyphean odds, and they were rebels. Their hard-scrabble lives had "become so absolutely free that you'd believe their freedom was an act of rebellion." (Translation of a quote from Camus.)

That's what made the movie work. Otherwise it would have been nihilistic, mean but without meaning.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller were heroes, not victims, villains, or vegetables.

What does it mean to rebel against absurdity?

It means to make the meaningless meaningful, while knowing the futility of that effort. Pushing the rock up the hill, knowing that it will just roll down again.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese

Release Date:

8 July 1971 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

The Presbyterian Church Wager See more »

Filming Locations:

British Columbia, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$31,558
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.40 : 1
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