X rating for ‘Midnight Cowboy’ was a marketing ploy, says Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of new book about the movie

SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning author Glenn Frankel about his latest book, "Shooting Midnight Cowboy."SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning author Glenn Frankel about his latest book, "Shooting Midnight Cowboy."

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.

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. In this video interview with SBN correspondent Steve Lubetkin, 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.

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About the Author

Steve Lubetkin
Steve Lubetkin is the news director for StateBroadcastNews.com. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. In May 2019, he began anchoring and reporting for the new weekly podcast, "The CRE News Hour," a news and features program focusing on the commercial real estate industry. From 2014 to 2019 he was New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com and filled in covering Chicago/Midwest and Atlanta. He has won numerous awards for his audio and video news reporting from the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced audio podcasts on CRE topics for the NAR Commercial Division and the CCIM Institute. Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for CEOReport.com, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies. Steve also reports on-camera and covers conferences for NJSpotlight.com, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of StateBroadcastNews.com, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC. In March 2021, he was elected to the board of directors of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996. Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional. You can email Steve at steve@statebroadcastnews.com.