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McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

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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 »
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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 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:

Name Your Poison. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Western

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese

Release Date:

24 June 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Presbyterian Church Wager See more »

Filming Locations:

British Columbia, Canada See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.40 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The steam engine used for Mrs Miller's arrival is genuine and functioning and the crew used it to power the lumbermill after its arrival. See more »

Goofs

The steam engine was deployable very shortly after the fire was discovered, which would have been possible only if the engine had already been lit. 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...
See more »

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
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The stranger, the winter lady & the sisters of mercy
9 September 2008 | by Benedict_CumberbatchSee all my reviews

Leonard Cohen's songs don't seem an ordinary choice for a western, but Robert Altman was no ordinary director, and his "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" was definitely not your traditional western. This film can be called a western because of its settings, but if anything, this is a "revisionist western" (à la Clint Eastwood's more recent "Unforgiven", a film that also subverted all the clichés and morales of this traditionally macho genre). And, more than anything, it's a love story.

John McCabe (Warren Beatty), charismatic but no so smart, sets up a whorehouse in the Old West. Constance Miller (Julie Christie), beautiful, strong and determined, soon arrives in town and offers to run the "business" and share the profits with McCabe. They start a tempestuous relationship while business thrives... but when a major corporation tries to buy McCabe & Mrs. Miller's enterprise, McCabe refuses to sell it. It's the beginning of his, her and the town's doom.

Even when exploring such a visual genre as the western (and visually the film is also very compelling, with great use of real snow and a beautifully shot "duel" on a bridge), Altman uses one of his most notorious trademarks: the overlapping dialogue, commonly used in ensembles but also wisely used in a more intimate, character-driven story like this. It works very well, although the 1 on 1 dialogues are deeply insightful themselves (the scene when Christie teaches a very young widow, played by Shelley Duvall, how she is supposed to behave in her new job, is brief, human, and dry). Beatty gives one of his most subtle, captivating performances, and Christie empowers Mrs. Miller with flesh and blood - she was definitely one of the most beautiful and intriguing actresses of her time, alongside Faye Dunaway and Jane Fonda, who set up a standard for beautiful, strong women who were much more than sheer eye candy. McCabe and Mrs. Miller's relationship is so fascinating that even the bang bang fans will be drawn into it and root for them to end together.

So, next time someone says Clint Eastwood reinvented the western with his masterpiece "Unforgiven", remember: 21 years before, Altman had experimented and succeeded on that with his "McCabe & Mrs. Miller". Because love stories are more than kisses and happy endings, and westerns go beyond blood and testosterone.


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