Friday, June 1, 2012
#36 (1998) and #43 (2007) on the AFI 100 Best Movies List
Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American drama film based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. It was written by Waldo Salt, directed by John Schlesinger, and stars Dustin Hoffman and newcomer Jon Voight in the title role. Notable smaller roles are filled by Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Salt and Barnard Hughes; M. Emmet Walsh is an uncredited, pre-fame extra.
The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the only X-rated film ever to win Best Picture.
* Dustin Hoffman as Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo
* Jon Voight as Joe Buck
* Sylvia Miles as Cass
* John McGiver as Mr. O'Daniel
* Brenda Vaccaro as Shirley
* Barnard Hughes as Towny
The opening scenes were filmed in Big Spring, Texas. A roadside billboard stating "IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN OIL WELL...GET ONE!" was shown while the New York-bound bus carrying Joe Buck rolled through Texas. Such advertisements, which were common in the Southwestern United States during the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s, promoted Eddie Chiles' Western Company of North America.
Joe first realized that the bus was soon approaching New York when he heard a Ron Lundy broadcast on WABC while listening to his portable radio. At the time the movie was being filmed in 1968, Lundy worked the midday shift (10 AM–1 PM) Monday through Saturday at the radio station.
Joe stayed at the Hotel Claridge which was located at the southeast corner of Broadway and West 44th Street in Midtown Manhattan. His room overlooked the northern half of Times Square. The building, designed by D. H. Burnham & Company and opened in 1911, has since been demolished.
A motif that was featured three times throughout the New York part of the movie was the sign at the top of the facade of the Mutual of New York (MONY) Building. It was extended into the scribbage scene with Shirley the socialite when Joe's incorrect spelling of the word "money" matched that on the signage.
Despite his portrayal of Joe Buck, a character hopelessly out of his element in New York, Jon Voight is a native New Yorker, hailing from Yonkers. Dustin Hoffman, who played a grizzled veteran of New York's streets, is actually from Los Angeles.
The line "I'm walkin' here!", which reached #27 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, is often said to have been improvised, but producer Jerome Hellman disputes this account on the 2-disc DVD set of Midnight Cowboy. The cab was driven by a hired actor during a scripted take, and the production team filmed it to look like an ad-lib. However, Hoffman told it differently on an installment of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. He stated that there were many takes to hit that traffic light just right so they didn't have to pause while walking. That take, the timing was perfect and the cab came out of nowhere and nearly hit them. Hoffman wanted to say "We're filming a movie here!", but he decided not to ruin the take.
Schlesinger chose the song "Everybody's Talkin'" (written by Fred Neil and performed by Harry Nilsson) as its theme, and the song underscores the entire first act of the film. (Other songs considered for the film included Nilsson's own "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," and Randy Newman's "Cowboy.") The song "He Quit Me" was also on the soundtrack; it was written by Warren Zevon, who also included it (as "She Quit Me") on his debut album Wanted Dead or Alive. This film was Adam Holender's first cinematography assignment; he was recommended to Schlesinger by Holender's childhood friend, filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Upon initial review by the Motion Picture Association of America, Midnight Cowboy received an X rating (Persons under 16 not admitted) due to homosexual references and its "possible influence upon youngsters".