Yes, spring has arrived, and as April dawns and the fools withdraw, the Tacoma Film Club is pleased to continue with their theme, “alternate paths to reconciliation, remembrance, and acceptance of the end.” We will begin with this month’s screening of MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), a film that really began to demonstrate what a pair of excellent actors Dustin Hoffman and John Voight were. It was directed by Brit John Schlesinger. He had been an actor in the 50’s, and began to make documentaries for the BBC in 1958. In a forty year career he directed 28 film. Before MIDNIGHT COWBOY, he directed BILLY LIAR (1963), DARLING (1965), and FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1965), all with Julie Christie. Some of his later films I’ve enjoyed included SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY (1971), MARATHON MAN (1976), YANKS (1979), and THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN (1985). He also directed one the biggest flops ever, HONKY TONK FREEWAY (1981). After his film career faded he turned to his first love, directing stage plays, musicals, and operas.
John Schlesinger: Making a film is like going down in a mine–once you’ve started, you bid goodbye to daylight and the outside world for the duration.
Roger Ebert wrote: Long after it was first released, “Midnight Cowboy” remains one of a handful of films that stay in our memory after the others have evaporated. Its love story between two drifters, the naïve Joe Buck and the street-savvy Ratso Rizzo, is a reference point for other films.
The screenplay was by Waldo Salt, who had began writing for MGM in 1936. He was blacklisted in 1951, and like so many others had to write under a psuedo-name for a decade to survive. He wrote 27 films, and some of my favorites were SERPICO (1973), and COMING HOME (1978). A bit of trivia, his daughter, Jennifer Salt, played crazy Annie in MIDNIGHT COWBOY.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
Directed by John Schlesinger @ 113 minutes.
The film stars Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Barnard Hughes, Bob Balaban, and Jennifer Salt.
Synopsis: Hayseed, Joe Buck, travels from Texas to New York City and becomes a freelance stud-for-hire. Soon he develops an unusual and deep friendship with a down-on-his-luck hustler named Ratso Rizzo. All they have is each other in a city that barely notices their existence. Based on the novel by Leo Herlihy. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.
Interestingly, the music score was by the great John Barry, who was uncredited.
The cinematographer was Adam Holendar. MIDNIGHT COWBOY was his first feature film. He went on to lens 32 films, including THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971), THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN (1979), THE BOY WHO COULD FLY (1986), SMOKE (1995), and BLUE IN THE FACE (1995).
Ratso Rizzo: You know in my own place, my name ain’t Ratso. I mean, it just happens that in my own place my name is Enrico Salvatore Rizzo.
Joe Buck: Well, I can’t say all that.
Ratso Rizzo: Rico, then.
From VARIETY: “Midnight Cowboy” is of the modern moment moderne. It has a hot topical theme; a popular actor from last year’s greatest film comedy; a miscellany of competent bit players, a good deal of both sly and broad humor. If the women object, and some will, that it accords their sex scant courtesy, the story hardly presents males as admirable. Indeed in this film the scenery is lovely and only the human race is vile.
So mark your calendars for Friday, April 1, 2001, and join us for the screening of MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969). It will be the one thing you do that day that will not be foolish. We are located at 924 Broadway, in the Pythian Temple, street level, across from the Theater on the Square, in the very heart of Tacoma’s theater district. Arrive early and enjoy both a wonderful meal prepared by the Phantom Director and Farishta, and the infectious fellowship we are famous for. There will be a club raffle, tickets sold for one dollar, with the winners receiving either 40% of the revenue, or a terrific DVD from my personal collection. Look for our huge banner out front. See you at the movies!