Midnight Cowboy

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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 then-newcomer Jon Voight in the title role. Notable smaller roles are filled by Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Bob Balaban, 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. In addition, it was the first X rated movie to win the Oscar. Later, certain parts of the film were edited and it received an R rating, followed by the MPAA's decision to let the complete original print stay as is: the R rating for this film remains to this day.



The film follows the story of a young Texan named Joe Buck (Jon Voight), who works as a dishwasher in a diner. As the film opens, Joe dresses himself like a rodeo cowboy, packs a suitcase, and quits his job. He heads to New York City in the hope of leading the life of a male hustler.

Joe's naïveté becomes evident as quickly as his cash disappears upon his arrival in New York. He is unsuccessful in his attempts to be hired by wealthy women. When finally successful in bedding a middle-aged New Yorker (Sylvia Miles), Joe's attempt to "talk business" results in the woman breaking down in tears and Joe giving her $20 instead. Joe meets the crippled Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), a third-rate con man who easily tricks Joe out of twenty dollars by offering to introduce him to a well-known pimp, who instead turns out to be a religious fanatic (John McGiver). Joe flees the scene in pursuit of Rizzo, but he is long gone.

Once broke, Joe is locked out of his hotel room for failure to pay the bill. He finally attempts to make money by submitting to oral sex from a young man in the seats of a movie theatre, but even this plan goes awry when the teenager (Bob Balaban) reveals he has no money. The next day, Joe spots an unsuspecting Rizzo at a lunch counter. He angrily shakes Rizzo down for every penny he has — all sixty-four of them — but Rizzo surprisingly offers to help Joe, by sharing his place, an apartment in a condemned building. Joe reluctantly accepts the offer, and they begin a business relationship, helping each other pickpocket, steal and further attempt to get Joe hired as a stud. They are both completely alone without each other, and a genuine bond develops between the two men. Rizzo had a cough when the two first met during the summer, and as the story progresses into winter, his health steadily worsens.

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