Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

4.5 6
Director: John Schlesinger

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles

     
 

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Based on a James Leo Herlihy novel, British director John Schlesinger's first American film dramatized the small hopes, dashed dreams, and unlikely friendship of two late '60s lost souls. Dreaming of an easy life as a fantasy cowboy stud, cheerful Texas rube Joe Buck (Jon Voight) heads to New York City to be a gigolo, but he quickly discovers that hustling isn't what… See more details below

Overview

Based on a James Leo Herlihy novel, British director John Schlesinger's first American film dramatized the small hopes, dashed dreams, and unlikely friendship of two late '60s lost souls. Dreaming of an easy life as a fantasy cowboy stud, cheerful Texas rube Joe Buck (Jon Voight) heads to New York City to be a gigolo, but he quickly discovers that hustling isn't what he thought it would be after he winds up paying his first trick (Sylvia Miles). He gets swindled by gimpy tubercular grifter Rico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) but, when Joe falls in the direst of straits, Ratso takes Joe into his condemned apartment so that they can help each other survive. Things start to look up when Joe finally lands his first legit female customer (Brenda Vaccaro) at a Warhol-esque party; Ratso's health, however, fails. Joe turns a final trick to get the money for one selfless goal: taking Ratso out of New York to his dream life in Miami. One of the first major studio films given the newly minted X rating for its then-frank portrayal of New York decadence, Midnight Cowboy was critically praised for Schlesinger's insight into American lives, with the intercut mosaic of Joe's memories and Ratso's dreams lending their characters and actions greater psychological complexity. While they may have been drawn by the seamy content (tame by current standards), the young late '60s audience responded to Joe's and Ratso's confusion amidst turbulent times and to the connection they make with each other despite their alienation from the surrounding culture. Midnight Cowboy became one of the major financial and artistic hits of 1969, winning Oscars for Best Picture (the first for an X-rated film), Best Director, and former blacklistee Waldo Salt's screenplay. Though the one-two punch of Midnight Cowboy and The Graduate (1967) proved Hoffman's range and Voight's Joe Buck made him a star, both lost Best Actor to classical cowboy John Wayne for True Grit. The film was later re-rated R by the MPAA.

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Editorial Reviews

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After earning notoriety as one of the first major studio films to be given an X rating (it was later re-rated R), Midnight Cowboy made history as the first X-rated film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. A brutal depiction of broken dreams and lives asunder in the fetid backwash of the swinging Sixties, Cowboy shocked audiences with its squalid subject matter and signaled a trend towards films that explored lurid and personal material. Whereas the mere suggestion of a blow job in Cowboy was scandalous in 1969, the film helped pave the way for later mainstream films in which a blow job might have as much shock value as the weather forecast. For that reason, Cowboy loses a substantial part of its impact when viewed all these years after its original release. That said, as a buddy film and as an ode to the impossibility of liberation from reality, the film retains a certain timelessness. Jon Voight's handsome but stupid Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman's desperate, verminous Ratso Rizzo remain iconic figures, symbolic of the resigned, bitter ending of a decade built on the tenets of liberation, progressive change, and the promise of collective struggle. The fate of Buck and Rizzo suggests that such liberation is illusory, and that human relations, no matter how tender they ultimately may be, are part of a quiet, desperate bid for acceptance and belonging.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/21/1994
UPC:
0027616019332
Original Release:
1969
Rating:
R
Source:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dustin Hoffman Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo
Jon Voight Joe Buck
Sylvia Miles Cass
John McGiver O'Daniel
Brenda Vaccaro Shirley
Barnard Hughes Towny
Ruth White Sally Buck
Jennifer Salt Annie
Gil Rankin Woodsy Niles
T. Tom Marlow Little Joe
George Epperson Ralph
Al Scott Cafeteria Manager
Linda Davis Mother on Bus
J.T. Masters Old Cowhand
Arlene Reeder Old Lady
Georgann Johnson Rich Lady
Anthony Holland TV Bishop
Bob Balaban The Young Student
Jan Tice Freaked-Out Lady
Paul Benjamin Bartender
Peter Scalia Grocer
Arthur Anderson Hotel Clerk
Tina Scala Laundromat Lady
Alma Felix Laundromat Ladies
Richard Clarke Escort Service Man
Ann Thomas The Frantic Lady
Al Stetson Bus Driver
Viva Gretel McAlbertson
Gastone Rossilli Hansel McAlbertson
Paul Jabara At the Party
International Velvet Actor
Cecelia Lipson Actor
Taylor Mead At the Party
Paul Morrissey At the Party
Jonathan Kramer Jackie
Gary Owens Young Joe
M. Emmet Walsh Actor
Paul Jasmin Party Guest
Ultra Violet At the Party
Joan Murphy Waitress

Technical Credits
John Schlesinger Director
John Barry Score Composer
Irving Buchman Makeup
Dick Smith Special Effects
Jerome Hellman Producer
Adam Holender Cinematographer
Richard C. Kratina Camera Operator
John Robert Lloyd Production Designer
Vic Ramos Casting
Hugh A. Robertson Editor
Ann Roth Costumes/Costume Designer
Waldo Salt Screenwriter
Philip Smith Set Decoration/Design
Kenneth Utt Associate Producer

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