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Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic Hardcover – 11 May 2021

4.5 out of 5 stars 139 ratings

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This tremendous volume offers the most detailed explication of how a movie is made that I have ever read . . . When Frankel praises [director John Schlesinger] for his 'natural curiosity, humor' and 'keen eye for quirky stories and intriguing characters, ' he could be talking about himself . . . What takes this book from good to great is his graceful writing and the intelligence [Frankel] brings to everything he examines . . . Much more than a page-turner. It's the first essential work of cultural history of the new decade. --Charles Kaiser, The Guardian

Frankel does a remarkable job telling the story of how [Midnight Cowboy] happened. He's such a gifted storyteller that you don't even have to be familiar with the film to find the book fascinating . . . A must-read for anyone interested in cinematic history, and an enthralling look at Schlesinger's 'dark, difficult masterpiece.' --Michael Schaub, NPR

With Shooting Midnight Cowboy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel completes an illuminating trilogy about men and their cinematic milestones . . . As with his previous two studies, the new book employs a wide lens, taking in not only John Schlesinger's role in getting the movie made but also those of producer, screenwriter, cast, crew, and an all-but-forgotten novelist . . . [A] definitive account. --Abby McGanney Nolan, The Boston Globe

Frankel is both exacting and tender in his depiction of [his subjects] . . . He is that increasingly rare and precious thing: a commentator who recognizes that people and their relationships are infinitely complex . . . This book is indispensable . . . At once addictively readable and profoundly humane. --Hannah McGill, Sight & Sound

Frankel's book is generous with context . . . [it shows] us the 'what if's and the 'but for's hiding in the backstory of the finished product. --Louis Menand, The New Yorker

[Shooting Midnight Cowboy is] doggedly reported and researched, built around collision courses between ambitious artists working in this most collaborative of mediums . . . Frankel puts it all together with narrative verve, telling a propulsive tale about creativity, commerce and loss. --Chris Vognar, USA Today

[Frankel] is a smooth writer and sure-footed narrator who uses this volume to excavate the cultural landscape of postwar America . . . He uncovers the rich details that gave the movie its texture and authenticity . . . [Shooting Midnight Cowboy] will satisfy anyone interested in how a long-shot movie about two underdogs became an American original. --James S. Hirsch, The Washington Post

In this outstanding work . . . [Glenn Frankel] covers every facet of [Midnight Cowboy's] creation . . . In a canny move, Frankel places the film in historical context, detailing major world events at the time of the shoot, including the Vietnam War, New York's 'downward path to seemingly terminal decline, ' and the Stonewall riots . . . Interviews with the film's surviving principals add immediacy, and descriptions of small production details enhance the book's power . . . A rare cinema book that is as mesmerizing as its subject." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A vivid chronicle . . . Frankel offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes . . . [and] also renders the social upheaval of the era--the Stonewall riots, antiwar protests, racial unrest--and the window between the collapse of old Hollywood's heavy censorship and the rise of the profit-oriented blockbusters when Midnight Cowboy was made. This enthralling account of a boundary-breaking film is catnip for film buffs." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Tackling questions of censorship and the MPAA ratings, bravura performances by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, the costumes, the soundtrack, and the film's coronation at the 1970 Academy Awards, Frankel expertly brings it all together . . . An in-depth, exquisite biography of a legendary film, and a must-read for cinephiles. --Peter Thornell, Library Journal (starred review)

"From the author of the splendid The Searchers (2013) comes another making-of book that transcends the genre. This is no mere story of the production of [Midnight Cowboy]; instead, it offers in-depth portraits of the man who created the characters of Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo . . . and the men who gave them cinematic life . . . Frankel, who won a Pulitzer in 1989 for international reporting, brings a reporter's eye to the story." --David Pitt, Booklist (starred review)

Through the prism of a compassionate, taboo-busting movie, Glenn Frankel has given us a master class in filmmaking that doubles as a rich cultural history of a tumultuous epoch. Shooting Midnight Cowboy takes us from Swinging London to gritty late sixties New York to the creative ferment of the New Hollywood, in a consistently entertaining tour full of vibrant, indelible characters. I loved this book. --Margaret Talbot, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century

The 'biography' of a film--how it got made, the background of everyone involved, what we made of it then and what we make of it now--may be my favorite genre, and Glenn Frankel is unexcelled as a master of the form. Here with his usual meticulous research he outdoes himself with Midnight Cowboy, a film particularly resonant for the taboos it broke and its surprising success at a transitional moment in our cultural history. All the backstories provide rich reading, unearthing little-known facts that illuminate whole careers. Shooting Midnight Cowboy is many things, but most thrillingly it is the story of how three outsiders--gay novelist, gay director and blacklisted screenwriter--furthered the acceptance of gay themes in books and movies by making a film about human loss. --Molly Haskell, author of Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films and From Reverence to Rape

Midnight Cowboy was one of my favorite movies ever--dark, soulful, with an odd couple of 'losers' who won at the game of friendship. But Glenn Frankel's book goes far beyond doing the epic film justice. Creating a compelling narrative of a vibrant, roiling, unexpected chain of creatives that spanned from Black Mountain College in 1947 to the movie's release at the tail end of the desolate sixties in Manhattan, Frankel has done that rare, great thing: shown us a world within a world of literary, filmic, and human longing and linked singular gems of history into a fresh and truthful mosaic. --Sheila Weller, New York Times bestselling-author of Girls Like Us and Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge

In Shooting Midnight Cowboy, Glenn Frankel illuminates the cultural forces that fed the creation of an iconic 1960s classic. This perceptive work elegantly captures how a movie can embody a moment in time. --Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and An Innocent Bystander


The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist reveals the history of the controversial 1969 Oscar-winning film that signaled a dramatic shift in American popular culture.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar Straus Giroux (11 May 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 432 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374209014
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0374209018
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 16.26 x 3.89 x 23.57 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 139 ratings

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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David Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history
Reviewed in Canada on 11 April 2021
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I. C. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating.
Reviewed in Germany on 21 May 2021
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Gary L. Norris
5.0 out of 5 stars Midnight Cowboy - The novel, the film, the people!
Reviewed in the United States on 17 March 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Midnight Cowboy - The novel, the film, the people!
Reviewed in the United States on 17 March 2021
If you are a fan of the film or the novel, you need to read this book! There are many reasons I love this film so much, and since Glenn Frankel has written this book, all of these feelings for this film I have loved for so long have come back to the surface.
This book is about much more than the film. It’s about a time of growth and change, discovery, chaos, and experimentation, that was such a big part of the late 60’s.
I highly recommend this book. For fans of the actors in the film, the director, the novelist, the film, the music, all the amazing talented and interesting people that made Midnight Cowboy happen, and the time period they lived it, it’s all in here.
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James K. Stewart
2.0 out of 5 stars jazzman
Reviewed in the United States on 22 April 2021
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18 people found this helpful
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M. Suriani
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I hoped for.
Reviewed in the United States on 14 May 2021
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11 people found this helpful
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