AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Midnight Cowboy
Director: John Schlesinger (Dir)
Release Date:   May 1969
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 25 May 1969
Production Date:   began 6 May 1968 at Filmways Studio, New York City
Duration (in mins):   111 or 113
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Cast:   Dustin Hoffman ([Enrico] Ratso [Rizzo])  
    Jon Voight (Joe Buck)  
    Sylvia Miles (Cass)  
    John McGiver (Mr. O'Daniel)  
    Brenda Vaccaro (Shirley)  
    Barnard Hughes (Towny [Townsend P. Locke])  
  Texas: Ruth White (Sally Buck)  
    Jennifer Salt ([Crazy] Annie)  
    Gil Rankin (Woodsy Niles)  
    Gary Owens (Little Joe)  
    T. Tom Marlow (Little Joe)  
    George Eppersen (Ralph)  
    Al Scott (Cafeteria manager)  
    Linda Davis (Mother on the bus)  
    J. T. Masters (Old cow-hand)  
    Arlene Reeder (The old lady)  
  New York: Georgann Johnson (Rich lady)  
    Jonathan Kramer (Jackie)  
    Anthony Holland (TV bishop)  
    Bob Balaban (The young student)  
    Jan Tice (Freaked-out lady)  
    Paul Benjamin (Bartender)  
    Peter Scalia (Vegetable grocer)  
    Vito Siracusa (Vegetable grocer)  
    Peter Zamagias (Hat shop owner)  
    Arthur Anderson (Hotel clerk)  
    Tina Scala (Laundromat lady)  
    Alma Felix (Laundromat lady)  
    Richard Clarke (Escort service man)  
    Ann Thomas (The frantic lady)  
  The Party: Viva (Gretel McAlbertson)  
    Gastone Rossilli (Hansel McAlbertson)  
    Ultra Violet (Guest)  
    Paul Jabara (Guest)  
    International Velvet (Guest)  
    Cecelia Lipson (Guest)  
    Taylor Mead (Guest)  
    Paul Morrissey (Guest)  
  Florida: Joan Murphy (The Waitress)  
    Al Stetson (Bus driver)  
    William Dorr (Party guest)  
    Paul Jasmin (Party guest)  

Summary: Restless and dissatisfied with his life as a dishwasher in a small Texas town, young Joe Buck outfits himself in a flashy cowboy outfit and heads for New York City, confident that his fortune will be made by selling himself to wealthy, sex-starved Manhattan women. While traveling by bus, he recalls some of the events of his childhood--the father who abandoned his wayward mother, the endless stream of men who visited his frisky grandmother Sally, and a series of sexual encounters during adolescence, including a gang rape of both Joe and his girl friend Annie. After checking into a seedy Manhattan hotel, Joe takes to the streets and eventually picks up Cass, a rich, coarse, middle-aged blonde. Although they make love in her East Side apartment, Joe not only fails to collect a fee but ends up giving her $20 for cab fare. Later, at a cheap Broadway bar, Joe meets Ratso Rizzo, a crippled, tubercular petty thief and con artist who volunteers to work as his pimp and manager. Although the two misfits have a falling out when Ratso sends Joe to the sleazy room of Mr. O'Daniel, a homosexual, religious fanatic, they patch up their differences and agree to share Ratso's dismally cold room in a condemned building. Almost in spite of themselves, their mutual loneliness leads to genuine friendship as Ratso shares with Joe his fantasy of someday living a life of luxury in Miami Beach. Economically, their partnership meets with little success, as Joe's typical "conquests" turn out to be as unprofitable as his encounter with a timid student to whom he gives himself in a 42nd Street theater balcony, only to discover that the boy cannot pay. Their situation appears to improve when Joe meets Shirley, a chic swinger at an underground party in Greenwich Village, and earns $20 for spending a wild night with her. By now, however, winter has taken its toll on Ratso, and he can no longer walk. Determined to get the bus fare to take his friend to Florida, Joe brutally beats up an aging homosexual in a hotel room and steals his money. Ratso manages to stumble onto the bus, but dies as they reach Miami. Facing an uncertain future, Joe puts his arm around the dead body of the only true friend he ever had. 

Production Company: Jerome Hellman Productions  
Production Text: A Jerome Hellman-John Schlesinger Production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp. (Transamerica Corp.)
Director: John Schlesinger (Dir)
  Burtt Harris (2d unit dir)
Producer: Jerome Hellman (Prod)
  Kenneth Utt (Assoc prod)
Writer: Waldo Salt (Scr)
Photography: Adam Holender (Dir of photog)
  Dick Kratina (Cam op)
  Willie Meyerhoff (Chief elec)
  Norman Leigh (Chief elec)
  Mike Mahony (Key grip)
Art Direction: John Robert Lloyd (Prod des)
  Willis Conner (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Hugh A. Robertson (Film ed)
  Edward Rothkowitz (Asst ed)
  Leonard Saltzberg (Asst ed)
  Richard Cirincione (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Phil Smith (Set dec)
  William J. Gerrity (Const grip)
  Ed Swanson (Head carpenter)
  Ed Carzero (Master scenic artist)
Costumes: Ann Roth (Cost des)
  Max Soloman (Ward supv)
Music: Toxey French (Mus prod)
  John Barry (Mus supv)
  Sear Electronic Music Production (Electronic mus)
  Jean "Toots" Thielemans (Harmonica played by)
Sound: Abe Seidman (Sd)
  Jack Fitzstephens (Sd ed)
  Vincent Connelly (Sd ed)
  Dick Vorisek (Sd mixer)
Special Effects: Pablo Ferro (Graphic eff)
  Joshua Light Show (Spec lighting eff)
Make Up: Dick Smith (Makeup consultant)
  Irving Buchman (Makeup)
  Bob Grimaldi (Hairdressing)
Production Misc: Jim Clark (Creative consultant)
  Hal Schaffel (Prod mgr)
  Fred Caruso (Asst prod mgr)
  Nick Sgarro (Cont)
  Michael Childers (Asst to the dir)
  Marion Dougherty Associates (Casting)
MPAA Rating: X
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Everybody's Talkin'," words and music by Fred Neil, arranged and conducted by George Tipton, sung by Nilsson; "A Famous Myth" and "Tears and Joys," words and music by Jeffrey Comanor, sung by The Groop; "He Quit Me," words and music by Warren Zevon, sung by Lesley Miller, arranged and conducted by Garry Sherman; "Jungle Gym at the Zoo," words and music by Richard Sussman, Rick Frank and Stan Bronstein, produced by Wes Farrell for Buddah Records, sung by Elephants Memory; "Old Man Willow," words and music by Richard Sussman, Michal Shapiro, Myron Yules and Stan Bronstein, produced by Wes Farrell for Buddah Records, sung by Elephants Memory.
Composer: Stan Bronstein
  Jeffrey Comanor
  Wes Farrell
  Rick Frank
  Fred Neil
  Michael Shapiro
  Garry Sherman
  Richard Sussman
  George Tipton
  Myron Yules
  Warren Zevon
Source Text: Based on the novel Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy (New York, 1965).
Authors: James Leo Herlihy

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Jerome Hellman Productions 26/5/1969 dd/mm/yyyy LP37236

Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: DeLuxe

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Death and dying
  Friendship
  Homosexuality
  Loneliness
  New York City
  Prostitution
  Urban life
 
Subjects (Minor): Buses
  Chewing gum
  Children
  Clothes
  Confidence men
  Grandmothers
  Handicapped
  Homelessness
  Hotels
  Imagination
  Miami Beach (FL)
  Naïveté
  Parties
  Pimps
  Promiscuity
  Radios
  Rape
  Religiosity
  Robbery
  Sex
  Slums
  Texans
  Winter

Note: The song "Jungle Gym at the Zoo" is misspelled "Jungle Jim at the Zoo" in the onscreen credits. As noted in Filmfacts , the picture was filmed on location in New York City, Texas and Florida. In 1971, the film's MPAA rating was changed from X to R. Midnight Cowboy was ranked 43rd on AFI's 2007 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 36th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 Nov 1968.   
Daily Variety   14 May 1969   p. 3, 12.
Film Daily   20 May 1969   p. 6.
Filmfacts   1969   pp. 169-73.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 1969.   
Los Angeles Herald Examiner   27 Jul 1969   Section E, p. 1, 4.
New York Times   26 May 1969   p. 54.
New Yorker   31 May 1969   p. 80.
Newsweek   2 Jun 1969   p. 90.
Time   30 May 1969   p. 89.
Variety   14 May 1969   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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