the colonial theatre marquee

Illuminating Cinema: Midnight Cowboy

Directed by John Schlesinger. US. 1969. R. 1 hour 53 minutes minutes. MGM. Digital.
Sun., April 14, 2019
April 14, 2019
1:00 pm

Convinced of his irresistible appeal to women, Texas dishwasher Joe Buck (Jon Voight) quits his job and heads for New York City, thinking he’ll latch on to some rich dowager. New York, however, is not as hospitable as he imagined, and Joe soon finds himself living in an abandoned building with a small-time con man named Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The two form a rough alliance, and together they kick-start Joe’s hustling career just as Ratso’s health begins to deteriorate. Originally rated “X” when released, this powerful comedy/drama broke new ground with its frank dialogue, gritty locations, and taboo themes. Fifty years later, this Best Picture Winner still packs a wallop!

About the Talk & Conversation

We will examine areas related to film censorship in the United States; American film-making in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and the responsibility of the artist to convey socially subversive material.

In 1968, the Hays Code, the censorship criteria that had controlled film production in the U.S. since the early 1930s, was judged outmoded, and replaced with new censorship standards. At the zenith of its power, the Code had been responsible, in the words of screenwriter, Ben Hecht, for helping films to, “have slapped into the American mind more human misinformation in one evening than the Dark Ages could muster in a decade.” According to Hecht, under the Hays Code, a single simplistic basic plot had emerged from its religious-based morass, unashamedly featuring the ideology that there, “are no problems of labor, politics, domestic life or sexual abnormality [that cannot] be solved happily by a simple Christian phrase or a fine American motto.”

However, such moral contrivances could no longer be considered sustainable in U.S. society by the late 1960s; a decade marked with the assassinations of prominent social and political figures, the Vietnam War, clashes over free speech, racial inequality, the Black Panther Party, the violence of the ’68 Democratic Party Conference, etc. Films had changed, so-called Hollywood blockbusters, like Hello Dolly and Tora! Tora! Torra! had flopped, while low budget films aimed at the emerging youth market had triumphed. For some, it was a rapid, abrupt and bewildering dynamic; John Wayne (1971), in the role of representative of the Hollywood old guard, infamously categorizing both Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider and John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy as perverted.

Far from eulogizing and celebrating the American social system, these films became reflective of its reality; attempting to capture the conflict, tension and bewilderment of an existence within it. Like Andy Warhol’s, Flesh (1968), or John Rechy’s novel, City of Night (1963), Schlesinger’s film, based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy (1965), explores, through the lens of male prostitution, the concept of sex for monetary gain.  Retained at the foremost to its narrative is an examination of the American Dream, particularly its reality within a contemporary urban landscape, combined with the ability of the individual to transcend the subjugation enforced upon them by an indifferent capitalist system; rising above the squalor and putrescence of economic marginalization to attain a form of dignity and respect, even when faced with waves of increasing societal apathy and disdain.

About the Speaker

Andrew Owen received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Bangor University, Great Britain, and was a fulltime faculty member at Cabrini University. Andrew is also a house manager here at the Colonial.

Andrew’s main areas of interest relate to the social history of censorship within popular culture; analyzing areas related to propaganda, horror, and the societal and cultural dynamics of censorship discourse and practice. Andrew is also interested in the study of humor, especially as it pertains to its usage by subordinated social groups to attack, challenge, or draw attention to the oppressive ideologies and practices of the dominant social group.


1:00PM – Pre-Show Talk in the Third Floor Screening Room
1:30PM – Film Screening in the 1903 Theatre
3:30PM – Post-Show Conversation in the Third Floor Screening Room


Adults: $25
Seniors & Students: $20
Members: $18

Click HERE to purchase a ticket to the Midnight Cowboy film screening only.

In addition to admission to the film screening and the pre- and post-film discussions, your Illuminating Cinema ticket includes a free small popcorn, a free small soda, a complimentary theatre cup. Plus $5 beer or wine (at this event only).

A limited number of tickets are available for each Illuminating Cinema presentation so we encourage advance purchases.

Discounts are available when you purchase tickets for all current Illuminating Cinema selections during the same transaction.

Member Passes are not accepted for this program.

About Illuminating Cinema

When the credits end that’s when the conversation begins!

Illuminating Cinema connects you with film fans of all ages for fun, refreshments and engaging conversation. Each presentation begins in our beautiful Garden Suite with a pre-show introduction from a guest speaker who offers insight and observation to help sharpen your focus on the respective film. After the lights go up in the historic 1903 auditorium, we’ll gather in the Garden Suite for a convivial post-film conversation with the speaker and each other.

In addition to admission to the film screening and the pre- and post-film discussions, your Illuminating Cinema ticket includes a free small popcorn, a free small soda, a complimentary theatre cup. Plus $5 beer or wine (at the Illuminating Cinema event only).

Focus your appreciation for film with Illuminating Cinema!