Midnight Cowboy

  • Directors: John Schlesinger
  • Producers: Jerome Hellman
  • Writers: James Leo Herlihy, Waldo Salt
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight

The film follows the story of a young Texan named Joe Buck (Jon Voight), who works washing dishes in a diner. He wishes to leave the restaurant, declaring to a workmate, “What the hell have I got to sit around here for?” As the movie 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 “kept” man. He tells people he meets, “I ain’t a for-real cowboy, but I am one hell of a stud!”

Joe’s naïveté becomes evident as quickly as his cash disappears upon his arrival in New York. He is hilariously, yet sadly, unsuccessful in his attempts to be hired as a “stud” for wealthy women. The naïve 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. Joe flees the scene in pursuit of Ratso, but he is long gone. As Joe’s money quickly runs out, he finally attempts to make money by sleeping with another man, but even this plan goes awry. (The novel does refer to previous homosexual activity by Joe, but explains that he’d pursued it more in hopes to please a male friend than out of desire.)

After Joe informs the bus driver, the driver tells him that there is nothing else to do, but leave him there until they arrive in Miami. The final scene is of a horrified Joe seated beside his dead friend, placing his arm around him, with several of the other passengers standing up and turning around in their seats to stare. He stares out the bus window and numbly watches row after row of palm trees go by.

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