Shooting Midnight Cowboy by Glenn Frankel
When did I first see Midnight Cowboy? Maybe in a double bill with something similar at The Scala, King’s Cross, a suitably sleazy venue, especially in the early eighties. On the dole with just enough money for a concessionary ticket, all hunched up on one of those snap-jaw cinema seats hoping that my leather jacket would protect me from the stains glinting on the seat back like drunken slug trails. Back then films like (for instance) Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, Rumble Fish, and Silkwood were part of a certain kind of cinephile culture (if you didn’t have photos of Robert De Niro, Matt Dillon or Meryl Streep pinned on your bed-sit wall, you obviously lived with your parents who wouldn’t allow you to cover or stain the flock wallpaper). Unlike the three other films mentioned, Midnight Cowboy explored the ambiguous and seedy areas of sexual desire and turned the idea of the supposedly straight male buddy movie on its head. If this intrigues or interests you, Shooting Midnight Cowboy by Glen Frankel is the book that asks and answers the questions you’ve always wanted (or been too afraid) to ask: Who wrote the book the film was based on and why? How was director, John Schlesinger, given the freedom to direct when his last Hollywood film flopped? Why was Dustin Hoffman cast as ‘Ratso’ Rizzo? Answers, among many others, that are politically and culturally contextualised via a sleazy New York City of the late sixties which was slowly and violently sinking into bankruptcy. Hollywood doesn’t make these kinds of films anymore - the mean and weird streets have been left to a more diverse cast and crew of outsider cinephiles some of whom continue to be inspired by films like Midnight Cowboy.
Shooting Midnight Cowboy – Glenn Frankel – publ. St. Martin’s Press UK/Picador US - £16.99