McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


Like John Ford's westerns, McCabe and Mrs. Miller is a portrait of contemporary America projected into the past. That, however, is as traditional as Altman gets here. While most westerns give us desert colors, expansive landscapes and largely outdoor activity, McCabe is a study in blues and grays of people living their lives mostly indoors amidst the wintry woods of the Pacific Northwest. Warren Beatty plays McCabe, a small-time entrepreneur who teams up with Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), a cockney madam, to open a successful gambling hall and brothel in the town of Presbyterian Church, at which point they become a threat to area big-business interests. The usual Altman stock company of actors etch character cameos in the perpetual mist and smoky interiors created by Zsigmond's cinematography, while Leonard Cohen's moody music provides an evocative counterpoint. In a final ironic touch, the church, the symbol of community and stability in traditional westerns, burns as McCabe sets out to confront his adversaries in the snow. In 1971 Pauline Kael called McCabe and Mrs. Miller "a beautiful pipe dream of a movie." It still is,

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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