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Midnight Cowboy

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Midnight Cowboy
Directed byJohn Schlesinger
Produced byJerome Hellman
Written byJames Leo Herlihy (novel)
Waldo Salt (screenplay)
Music byJeffrey Comanor,
Floyd Huddleston
Warren Zevon (songs),
John Barry
CinematographyAdam Holender
Edited byHugh A. Robertson
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
May 25, 1969
Running time
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.6 million

Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American drama movie, released by United Artists. John Schlesinger directed it, and Waldo Salt wrote the screenplay based on the James Leo Herlihy novel. It stars Dustin Hoffman (in his first starring role after The Graduate), along with Jon Voight in the title role.

It is the only X-rated movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.[1] Schlesinger won a Best Director Award; both Hoffman and Voight were nominated for Best Actor.

In 1971, it was given the "R" rating by the MPAA. Apart from this, nothing was changed in the movie.


Joe Buck (played by Voight, in his first major acting role) was an orphan who was raised by his grandmother in Texas. She died after Joe grew up, when he was drafted into the US Army. He had a girlfriend, who was called Crazy Annie, but she had been sent to a psychiatric hospital. With both women gone from his life, Joe had no family or close friends. He saved money to make the trip, bought some stylish cowboy clothes, and traveled to New York City on a bus.

Joe knew little about the realities of both New York and his chosen job, and he soon found himself homeless, with no money and only rare chances to earn any. When he first met "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman's character), Ratso (tricked) Joe out of $20, but when they met again, Ratso offered to share his "place", which turned out to be a room in a condemned building. The two became partners. Ratso shared what he knew about New York with Joe, and became his "manager" (pimp), and Joe shared any money he got with Ratso. Ratso was sick, probably with tuberculosis, and as time went on he depended more and more on Joe. Ratso cheered both of them up with stories about his plans to move to Florida before winter came.

The weather turned cold as the year ended, but Joe and Ratso got a break, when they were invited to a big party. Along with eating (and stashing for later) as much of the food there as they could, Joe met a who finally treated him the way he'd always wanted to be, in New York City, and paid him likewise. Ratso, however, became even more ill, and was unable to walk or stand for long. He refused to go to a doctor or a hospital, and insisted Joe take him to Florida.

Joe tried to set up another encounter with the socialite, to raise travel money, but failed. He donated blood to get grocery money, and by chance met a traveling . The salesman invited Joe to spend the night with him, but later felt guilty, and sent Joe home with a St. Christopher medal. When Joe found Ratso sicker than ever, he returned to beat and rob the salesman, for the money they needed.

Joe and Ratso left for Florida on a bus, headed to Miami. Joe bought new clothes for them both, and threw away his cowboy clothing. "I ain't no kinda hustler," Joe decided, and he planned to find a regular job once they reached Florida. Joe and Ratso talked and joked during most of the trip, but Ratso died before they arrived. Joe realized how much he had cared about Ratso as a person, and that what he'd missed most in his life was someone to be close with. Joe had lost his grandmother and his sweetheart. Now he'd lost his best friend, and Joe was scared to go on alone.

Awards and honors

The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Both Hoffman and Voight were nominated for Best Actor awards and Sylvia Miles was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Miles had one of the shortest performances ever nominated (clocking in under four minutes of screen-time).

The film won six BAFTA Awards. It was also entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival.[2][3]

John Barry, who supervised the music and composed the score for the movie, won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Theme. Fred Neil's song "Everybody's Talkin'" also won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, for Harry Nilsson.

In 1994, the movie was picked by the Library of Congress to keep in the United States National Film Registry.


Other websites

Preceded by
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by