Contrary to popular belief, the X-rating assigned to Midnight Cowboy did not come from a prudish motion picture ratings board, but from a studio executive whose marketing team turned the X rating into a marketing bonanza, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and movie expert Glenn Frankel.
Frankel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and movie expert, visits the SBN studios to discuss his new book that launched March 16, Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic (affiliate link), a recounting of the history of the 1969 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight that was the first (and only) X-rated film to ever win a Best Picture Award from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating board originally assigned an R rating to the movie, but studio executives decided to apply the X rating to the film, leading the studio marketing department to leverage the “adults-only” rating as a marketing ploy to make the movie irresistible to audiences seeking edgy and controversial topics, says Frankel.
In his conversation with SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin, Frankel describes the literary milieu surrounding James Herlihy, the author of Midnight Cowboy, and explains how the novel made its way to John Schlesinger, the film’s director. Frankel also recalls Schlesinger’s doubts about casting Hoffman and Voight in what turned out to be a classic movie.Watch the conversation in the player below, or download an audio podcast of the interview.