Midnight Cowboy

USA, 1969, R, 113 min. Director: John Schlesinger. Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, Brenda Vaccaro.

Oh, Jon Voight, Jon Voight, where are you now? A terrific leap to prominence with this film and a great follow-up (Deliverance), and then practically nothing. Oh all right, Coming Home in 1978, but who watches that these days? And yes, yes, Runaway Train, but really now. This was the goods; this is what I wanna see from you again, Jon baby.

Midnight Cowboy was a hit on its initial release, winning Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, and it still looks good today. Voight plays a hick country dude who makes his way to the Big Apple and ends up in the seamier end of town working as a gigolo. Along the way he picks up a kind-of pimp, the disgusting Ratso Rizzo, beautifully played by Dustin Hoffman (consolidating his reputation after The Graduate).

The film's impact is in these characters, and in its uncompromising depiction of city life—it's everyone's New York nightmare. There's also an infectiously hummable theme song (I think by Harry Nilsson, but I can't be sure). Director John Schlesinger has, like Voight, pretty much dropped from sight since, although he was responsible for Marathon Man and The Falcon and the Snowman. Midnight Cowboy was undoubtedly his finest moment, so take the opportunity to see it while you can.


First published in a reviews booklet of the ANU Film Group.
This page: 31 January 2000; last modified 16 February 2001.

©1994, 2000 Rory Ewins