Midnight Cowboy (1969)A review by Shlomoh Sherman
March 23, 2015
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Plot Synopsis: A naive male prostitute and his sickly friend struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. [A small town dreamer. A small time con man. An unlikely friendship. An uncommon bond. Oscar winners Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman star in this Academy Award winning drama for Best Picture.]
Director: John Schlesinger
Writers: Waldo Salt (screenplay), James Leo Herlihy (based on his novel)
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles
Plot Keywords: hustler - new york city - male in shower - aging prostitute - big city life (252)
Taglines: Whatever you hear about Midnight Cowboy is true.
Official Sites: MGM
Language: English - Italian
Release Date: June 16, 1969 (Brazil)
Also Known As: Perdidos en la noche
Filming Locations: Holy Name Cemetery, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
114 East 72nd Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (Sylvia Miles' Apartment) 2 of 2 found this interesting Filmways Studios - 246 East 127th Street, East Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (studio), Miami, Florida, USA, Big Spring, Texas, USA, Stanton, Texas, USA (flashbacks), Sweetwater, Texas, USA, Hollywood, Florida, USA, Lincoln Tunnel, New York City, New York, USA, Mercer Street, New York City, New York, USA, Miami Beach, Florida, USA, Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Budget: $3,600,000 (estimated)
Production Co: Jerome Hellman Productions, Florin Productions
Runtime: 113 min
Sound Mix: Mono
Color: Black and White - Color
I have seen MIDNIGHT COWBOY at least 5 times and each time I see it, I marvel at the wonderful cinematic production in which every scene, every frame is meticulously and beautifully coreographed and executed.
The two films [both Staring Dustin Hoffman] which cracked open the Hollywood censorship barricade were THE GRADUATE and MIDNIGHT COWBOY but MIDNIGHT COWBOY completely shattered it. After its appearence, Hollywood movies were no longer the so-called "family values" affairs which insulted the intelligence of audiences but now reflected real life. Before reading up on the film a few days ago, I did not realize that the original rating for this film was X, usually reserved for porography, and later changed to R [17 and older without an accompanying adult].
The first time I saw the movie, I went with my ex-wife, Pamela, who had not seen Dustim Hoffman before, and when I told her that he really does not look like Rizzo but is really quite handsome, she remarked that she could tell he must be goodlooking.
As for Jon Voight, who auditioned for the role only after more well-known auditioning actors failed to get the role, the casting people could not have chosen any better. Not only is Voight an accomplished actor; his looks in 1968 were more than handsome. He was a beautiful man much like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
The basic plot of MIDNIGHT COWBOY is about the growing friendship between two most unlikely characters; Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo [Hoffman], a New York seedy hustler, and Joe Buck [Voight] a rural Texas would be male prostitute. Against the backdrop of an unfriendly and hostile "Big Apple", both men are drawn together in a fraternity of need to "beat the system" by preying on older, lonely, sexually needy women. After initially attempting to bilk Joe of his money and failing to do so, Rizzo agrees to become Joe's "manager" and pimp.
Unfortunately both characters turn out to be losers. Both are so out of their league as hustlers in a city rife with hustling. They are both simply unsophisticated and boorish to pull off the hustle, Rizzo because he lacks the emotional resoucres and contacts necessary for the project, and Joe because he is really too soft and decent a human being to actually take advantage of people and thus always winds up being taken advantage of by his marks, both male and female.
As Joe finds the money that he brought with him from Texas dwindling away and as Rizzo finds himself daily succuming to a respiratory illness brought about by his lifelong unhealthy lifestyle, both friends draw emotionally closer and closer together, each only wanting the best for the other whereas in the same situation two different men would abandon each other just to survive. Towards the film's unhappy ending, it is clear to the audience that both Rizzo and Joe, due to their mutual interdependence, have come to love each other.
Some of the scenes are quite intense and you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable with their vivid sexuality. For example, as stated below, Hoffman once revealed that "when the movie was first previewed, the audience started to leave in droves during the movie theater gay encounter scene between Jon Voight and Bob Balaban." After growing up with the Hayes Office Roman Catholic suppression of any kind of explicit reference to sex, I myself was astounded by the explicit portrayal of gay felatio actually appearing on the screen before me.
There are other scenes which give some kind of comic releif from the film's intensity and one reviewer thinks that they detract from the seriousness of the movie and cause it to be too long.
I can not praise this movie enough, and if you have never seen it, please go to your local library and borrow it.
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dustin Hoffman ... Ratso
Jon Voight ... Joe Buck
Sylvia Miles ... Cass
John McGiver ... Mr. O'Daniel
Brenda Vaccaro ... Shirley
Barnard Hughes ... Towny
Ruth White ... Sally Buck - Texas
Jennifer Salt ... Annie - Texas
Gilman Rankin ... Woodsy Niles - Texas
Gary Owens ... Little Joe - Texas
T. Tom Marlow ... Little Joe - Texas
George Eppersen ... Ralph - Texas
Al Scott ... Cafeteria Manager - Texas
Linda Davis ... Mother on the Bus - Texas
J.T. Masters ... Old Cow-Hand - Texas
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