The first, and only, X-rated film to win a best picture Academy Award, John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy
seems a lot less daring today (and has been reclassified as an R), but remains a fascinating time capsule of late-1960s sexual decadence in mainstream American cinema. In a career-making performance, Jon Voight plays Joe Buck, a naive Texas dishwasher who goes to the big city (New York) to make his fortune as a sexual hustler. Although enthusiastic about selling himself to rich ladies for stud services, he quickly finds it hard to make a living and eventually crashes in a seedy dump with a crippled petty thief named Ratzo Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman, doing one of his more effective "stupid acting tricks," with a limp and a high-pitch rasp of a voice). Schlesinger's quick-cut, semi-psychedelic style has dated severely, as has his ruthlessly cynical approach to almost everybody but the lead characters. But at its heart the movie is a sad tale of friendship between a couple of losers lost in the big city, and with an ending no studio would approve today. It's a bit like an urban Of Mice and Men
, but where both guys are Lenny. --Jim Emerson
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight star in John Schlesinger's Oscar-winning drama based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy. Texan dishwasher Joe Buck (Voight) dreams of making it big in New York. Convinced that he can make his fortune providing sexual favours for wealthy women, he makes the move to the Big Apple. Unfortunately, the first woman he beds down with, Cass (Sylvia Miles), doesn't have any money to speak of, and borrows some of his. At this point, sleazy street-hustler Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo (Hoffman) enters the frame, offering to become Joe's 'manager'. The only engagement he can arrange is with a gay Christian (John McGiver), but Joe and Ratso soon become close friends, fantasizsng to each other about the millions they are going to make. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, while both Hoffman and Voight were nominated for Best Actor.