Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

In Robert Altman's haunting revisionist Western, set at the turn of the century:

  • the main character: small-time entrepreneur, cocky drifter/gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty) in the muddy, Pacific Northwest frontier mining town of Presbyterian Church, who wouldn't deny that he was a legendary gunslinger named "Pudgy" McCabe
  • the sequence of the arrival of British, secretly opium-addicted, brothel madam Constance Miller (Oscar-nominated Julie Christie) accompanied by a group of whores after a six-hour steam-powered tractor ride, who first told McCabe how she was "bloody starvin'...I'm hungry enough. I could eat a bloody horse...I'll have four eggs, fried. Some stew. And I want some strong tea" - and then as she voraciously ate her meal, propositioned McCabe about how to run a better whorehouse in town: ("I'm a whore, and I know an awful lot about whorehouses. And I know that if you had a house up here, you'd stand to make yourself a lot of money. Now, this is all you gotta do: Put up the money for the house. I'll do all the rest. I'll look after the girls, the business, the expenses, the runnin', the furnishin', everything. And I'll pay ya back any money you put in the house, so's you won't lose nothin'. And we'll make it fifty-fifty...You can't call them crib cows whores. I'm talkin' about a proper sportin' house, with class girls and clean linen and proper hygiene...I'm tellin' ya, with someone up here to handle all them punters properly, you can make yourself at least double the money ya make on your own....What do you do when one girl fancies another? How do you know when a girl really has her monthly or when she's just takin' a few days off? What about when they don't get their monthlies, cause they don't? What do ya do then? I suppose you know all about seeing to that? And what about customers? Who's gonna skin 'em back and inspect 'em? You gonna do that?... 'Cause if ya don't, this town'll be clapped up inside of two weeks if it's not already. What about when, when business is slow? You just gonna let the girls sit around on their bums? 'Cause I'll tell ya something, Mr. McCabe. When a good whore gets time to sit around and think, four out of five times, she'll turn to religion, 'cause that's what they was born with. And when that happens, you'll find yourself fillin' the bloody church down there, instead of your own pockets.); and then she ended her pitch with an ultimatum: ("Now I haven't got a lot of time to sit around and talk to a man who's too dumb to see a good proposition when it's put to him. Do we make a deal, or don't we?")
  • the entrance into town of an ominous stranger, known as Cowboy (Keith Carradine) - who revealed that he was there as a potential customer for Mrs. Miller's classy whorehouse: ("Well, I heard you had the fanciest whorehouse in the whole territory up here. Gee, it's been so long since I had a piece of ass"); and then, when asked which whore he fancied, he replied: ("Aw, hell, don't make no difference. I gotta have ya all")
  • the pressures brought on a resistant, arrogant and over-reaching McCabe, to sell his business to the hard-bargaining Harrison Shaughnessy Mining Company, a capitalistic monopoly represented by Eugene Sears (Michael Murphy) and Ernest Hollander (Antony Holland)
  • the passionate love scene between McCabe and Mrs. Miller when he expressed his true feelings for her - and also tearfully apologized to her: ("You're the best lookin' woman I ever saw. And I ain't never tried to do nothin' but put a smile on your face. I ain't no good at sayin' I'm sorry. I, uh, I don't know what it is. I guess I ain't never been this close to nobody before") - she urged: ("Why don't you get under the covers, huh?...You don't need to say nothin'...Come on")
  • the beginning of the lengthy stalking pursuit of McCabe amidst a blowing snowstorm and a fire-fighting brigade battling a Presbyterian Church blaze in town; three hired bounty hunters had arrived to assassinate McCabe: the Kid (Manfred Schulz), a jittery teenaged blonde Dutch immigrant punk, half-breed Breed (Jace Van Der Veen), and giant mustached Dog Butler (Hugh Millais) with a single-shot elephant gun; McCabe cleverly outwitted and eventually killed all three, but was seriously wounded
Stalking Pursuit of McCabe by Bounty Hunters
McCabe (Playing Dead) Firing on Dog Butler
  • the image of mortally-wounded McCabe tragically bleeding to death and dying silent and alone in the swirling, deep snow after being shot by last-surviving bounty hunter - Butler, whom McCabe was able to trick by playing dead before shooting him in the forehead
  • the final close-up of the 'dead' eye of drug-deluded, withdrawn, and oblivious Constance smoking from a pipe in the Chinese section of town, while fondling a marble egg in her hand

Entrepreneur and Gambler John McCabe

Arrival of Constance Miller - Brothel Madam

Constance's Proposition: "Do we make a deal, or don't we?"

Arrival of Brothel Customer - Cowboy (Keith Carradine)

Love Scene

McCabe's Slow Death in Snow

Mrs. Miller's Drugged State


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