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#082 John Schlesinger: Midnight Cowboy vs. Honky Tonk Freeway

Download MP3 In today's episode Nate and Austin compare John Schlesinger's best and worst rated films, Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), respectively. Nate is not a Honky Tonk happy camper, Austin talks about his feelings on Dustin Hoffman, and they both confront their masculinity. Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Yorgos Lamthimos's Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011), his best and worst rated films.
Also check out this interview revisiting the cast and crew of Midnight Cowbow:

Honky Tonk Freeway Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: Ticlaw, a small town in Florida, has only one attraction: a safari park. The government constructs a freeway that passes near Ticlaw, but decides not to put an exit into the town. The people of Ticlaw, led by its Mayor, will do anything in order to convince the governor to alter the project.
  • Ratings: IMDb 5.0 | RT N/A C / 51% A
  • Released: 1981
  • Director: John Schlesinger
  • Writer(s): Edward Clinton
  • Cinematographer: John Bailey (In the Line of Fire, Antitrust, Silverado)
  • Notable actors: David Rasche, Paul Jabara, Howard Hesseman, Teri Garr, Jenn Thompson, Peter Billingsley, Beau Bridges, Beverly D’Angelo, Daniel Stern
  • Budget: $24 million
  • Box office: $2 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • The entire town of Mount Dora, Florida, was painted pink for this picture.
    • Due to delays in filming the movie, the Mount Dora section of the picture was was pushed back until the 1980 summer when it had meant to shoot there in spring.
    • When released, its $24 million budget made it the most expensive comedy ever produced. It was a major failure at the box office.
    • Director John Schlesinger's original cut was somewhere in the range of three hours.
    • Two thousand extras and background artists in Mount Dora, Florida were paid around US $35 per day to appear in the film.
    • According to Pulse the Magazine, "the film had been fraught with problems, from a disjointed script to its title - and marketing that implied it was just '...another car crash comedy romp'. This was compounded by the producers' decision to sell the video rights before Universal Pictures agreed to release the film. Angered by this, Universal minimized their marketing support and limited the number of theaters in which the film was shown. Withdrawn from theaters just a week after its release, the movie disappeared".

Midnight Cowboy Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: A naive hustler travels from Texas to New York to seek personal fortune but, in the process, finds himself a new friend.
  • Ratings: IMDb 7.9 | RT 90% C / 88% A
  • Released: 1969
  • Director: John Schlesinger
  • Writer(s): Waldo Salt (screenplay), James Leo Herlihy (based on the novel by)
  • Cinematographer: Adam Holender (Smoke, Twisted, Sea of Love)
  • Notable actors: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Barnard Hughes, Ruth White, Jennifer Salt, Gilman Rankin
  • Budget: $3.2 million
  • Box office: $44.8 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • Before Dustin Hoffman auditioned for this film, he knew that his all-American image could easily cost him the job. To prove he could do it, he asked the auditioning film executive to meet him on a street corner in Manhattan, and in the meantime, dressed himself in filthy rags. The executive arrived at the appointed corner and waited, barely noticing the "beggar" less than ten feet away who was accosting people for spare change. At last, the beggar walked up to him and revealed his true identity.
    • Dustin Hoffman put in so much effort portraying one of Ratso's coughing fits that one time he actually ended up vomiting.
    • According to Dustin Hoffman himself, the taxi incident *wasn't* scripted. During an L.A. Times interview in Jan. 2009, he said that the movie didn't have a permit to close down the NYC street for filming, so they had to set-up the scene with a hidden camera in a van driving down the street, and remote microphones for the actors. After 15 takes, it was finally going well, but this time, as they crossed the street, a taxi ran a red light. Hoffman wanted to say "Hey, we're SHOOTING here!", not only from fear of his life, but also from anger that the taxi driver might have ruined the take. Instead, being the professional that he is, he stayed in character and shouted "Hey, we're WALKING here!" and made movie history. Jon Voight also backs up this version of the incident, saying that seeing how well Hoffman was handling the situation, he likewise stayed in character.
    • Dustin Hoffman kept pebbles in his shoe to ensure his limp would be consistent from shot to shot.
    • The film was rated "X" (no one under 17 admitted) upon its original release in 1969, but the unrestricted use of that rating by pornographic filmmakers caused the rating to quickly become associated with hardcore sex films. Because of the stigma that developed around the "X" rating in the ratings system's early years, many theaters refused to run "X" films and many newspapers would not run ads for them. The film was given a new "R" (children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian) rating in 1971, without having anything changed or removed. It remains the only X-Rated film ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture, be shown on network TV (although the R reclassification had taken place by then), or be screened by a sitting U.S. President, Richard Nixon.
    • Bob Dylan wrote the song "Lay, Lady, Lay" for the film, but didn't complete it in time to be included in the soundtrack.
    • This film contains the first recorded use of the word "scuzzy", as a description of Ratso Rizzo. At its root, "scuzzy" is apparently a combination of "scummy" and "fuzzy".

Intro music by Eric Lynch

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