MIDNIGHT COWBOY - Hollywood's Best Remembered


The 1969 Best Picture winner ‘Midnight Cowboy’ screened to a legion of new fans and old alike for New York audiences as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' ‘Monday Nights with Oscar®’ series last week.

Academy Award®-winning producer Jerome Hellman joined Academy Award- nominated actress Sylvia Miles in a post-screening discussion. David V. Picker, the executive-in-charge at United Artist during the film's development, moderated the onstage conversation, which also included actor Bob Balaban, cinematographer Adam Holender, composer John Barry and costumer designer Ann Roth.

The film earned seven Oscar nominations: Actor (Hoffman, Voight), Actress in a Supporting Role (Miles), Directing (John Schlesinger), Film Editing (Hugh A. Robertson), Best Picture (Hellman, producer) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Waldo Salt), based on the book of the same title (novel by James Leo Herlihy). It went on to win in the Best Picture, Directing and Writing categories.

Long before the film ‘Milk’ tackled its gay theme, ‘Midnight Cowboy’ stars Dustin Hoffman (as crippled conman Ratso Rizzo) and Jon Voight (a bisexual male prostitute) as two rebels who forge an unlikely friendship on the cold and harsh streets of New York City. The film endures as a powerful story of friendship, compassion and redemption.

At the time of release, the film’s portrayal of its characters’ bleak lives was considered suitable only for mature audiences, and the censoring body, the Motion Picture Association of America, which had recently introduced its ratings system, gave it an X rating, on the foolish advice of then United Artist co-chairman Arthur Krim, per council from a shrink who thought its neutral handling of homosexuality was promoting a so called mental illness. ‘Midnight Cowboy’ holds the distinction of being the only X-rated film to win the Best Picture Oscar. It was later wisely re-rated R in 1971.

© 2009, AMPAS,
©The Hollywood Sentinel.