McCabe & Mrs. Miller at 40
By Tony Dayoub
I’d be hard pressed to find a more evocative opening credit sequence than that of the 1971 Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. First, we hear the wind blowing over the WB shield logo that precedes the film. As the movie fades up, so do the plaintive guitar strings of Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song,” rising along with the soft light of Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography. In a tracking shot, a lonely figure — his body enveloped in brown-orange fur so as to render him faceless — meanders down a winding dirt road on his horse. The fluid camera seemingly drags the film titles into view from screen right at the same deliberate pace that the rider’s horse tows a second beast of burden. The horses stroll past a half-built church sitting in the cold drizzle. The man jumps off the horse when he arrives at the ramshackle mining settlement we’ll come to know as Presbyterian Church. He doffs his fur coat, and big reveal: It is pretty-boy Warren Beatty, bearded and looking as run-down in his tight-fitting dark suit and bowler hat as the rest of the camp. The local saloon’s proprietor, Paddy Sheehan (Rene Auberjonois) soon susses out the stranger’s name from his customers: McCabe...
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