"Going where the weather suits my clothes..."
Knox County — Everybody was talking about the soon-to-be best picture of the year in 1970, “Midnight Cowboy.” The year was 1969 and this movie is one of my favorites of all time. Jon Voight plays Joe Buck, a greenhorn from Texas; and Dustin Hoffman plays Ratso Rizzo, a street savvy New Yorker. I think those two roles are the best these two actors have ever done.
The theme song of the movie, “Everybody’s Talkin’” was a winner in its own right. I always turned the radio up when it came on. See a clip on YouTube sung by Harry Nilson—Everybody’s Talkin’. Midnight Cowboy.
The film was based on a book of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. The screenplay, written by Waldo Salt, and directed by John Schlesinger, won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture.
Dustin and Jon were nominated for Best Actor for the movie but they both lost out to John Wayne who won for "True Grit" that year.
As the story goes, a naïve Joe Buck decides to try his luck as a hustler with the rich women of New York City. He gets off the bus in the city dressed in his cowboy clothes including a Stetson and cowboy boots. Whoever decided to have Joe chewing gum was brilliant. With the gum chewing; the smirk on his face; the clothes, the cowskin-covered suitcase; and the music, the character of Joe Buck was defined in the opening scenes without a word of dialogue being spoken.
It’s not long before the character of Ratso rips him off. The two end up as unlikely friends—the city slicker showing the country boy how to make it in the city. Ratso Rizzo, a sickly yet street-wise man takes Joe under his wings. He finds wealthy women for Joe, both hoping to make a fortune from them. Here’s some of the dialogue between the two new friends:
Ratso Rizzo: “I gotta get outta here, gotta get outta here. Miami Beach, that’s where you could score. Anybody can score there, even you. In New York, no rich lady with any class at all buys that cowboy crap anymore. They’re laughin’ at you on the street.”
Joe Buck: “Ain’t nobody laughin’ at me on the street.”
Ratso: “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”
This is probably the most famous line in the movie as Ratso, with his bad foot, tries to cross a street and puts a hand out against a taxi who doesn’t want to stop for him. I used those same words myself on a trip to NYC. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to be a real New Yorker if even for just a few seconds.
Actually, the appearance of the taxi was not scripted. When it appeared in the shot, Dustin automatically said the line and the director decided to keep it in.
I always wondered if Dustin Hoffman had to go through physical rehab after they were through shooting the film for the foot he dragged all through the movie as Ratso. They put pebbles in that shoe to remind him to limp on it.
Here’s another moment between friends:
Ratso: “You know, in my own place, my name ain’t Ratso. I mean, it just so happens that in my own place my name is Enrico Salvatore Rizzo.”
Joe Buck: “Well, I can’t say all that.”
Ratso: “Rico, then.”
And Joe did call him Rico after that.
As Ratso’s health continued to worsen, (we assume he had tuberculosis) Joe took the bull by the horns and decided to take his friend on a bus to Miami as Ratso had suggested earlier. He ditched his cowboy clothes and bought short-sleeved shirts for the both of them and together they boarded the bus.
He was hoping that where “the weather suits my clothes” was true and that the warm weather would cure his friend.
The scene on the bus where Ratso dies is probably the saddest scene I’ve ever witnessed on the silver screen. You can view that clip on YouTube: Midnight Cowboy (11/11) Movie Clip—Ratso Dies on the Bus to Miami (1969) HD.
“Midnight Cowboy” has been called one of the best movies of all time. I would agree. Things haven’t changed much as far as the theme of this movie goes. Today there are still lost souls like Joe and Ratso in every big city. They are also ignored by the bulk of the population just like they were in “Midnight Cowboy.” I think of that movie every time I see similar scenes on whatever big city street I may be on at the time. Here’s to lost souls everywhere.
Thanks for listening.