How did Midnight Cowboy win best picture?

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  • Zooey the Dreamer
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    #206510

    This might have been discussed in the past, but I couldn’t find anything. In an interview, Todd Haynes, who has a really hard time with the guilds right now, speaks of the early influence of Midnight Cowboy on him. I started thinking about it and watched it again. It’s a terrific film and it’s one of these best picture winners that make the Academy look good, but how did this happen? Isn’t it ironic that it won best picture in the year when the all-American hero John Wayne won his sole best actor award? Midnight Cowboy must have had so much going against it. It’s the only G-rated best picture and it won only a year after one of the Academy’s safest choices – Oliver! 
    It has sex and drugs and hints of homosexuality. It’s gritty and realistic. It’s even funny that it defeated movies such as Hello, Dolly! and Anne of the Thousand Days. (Z is the exception here.) Even if the Academy didn’t want to go for the two lavish Hollywood extravaganzas, voters could have voted for the safer Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that actually won more Oscars than Midnight Cowboy. 
    But, really, how did this happen? I look at surprising wins such as Chariots of Fire and Shakespeare In Love and Crash and I can see how they happened, even if I disagree with the wins and have issues with the films themselves. But this one I can’t understand. Did the win cause a scandal? 
     

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    Jake
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    #206512

    The best version of “Everybody’s Talking”, sans original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSRVLNQUtGI

    It won because it really was the Best Picture of the year. Celebrate the fact that this happened, then. 

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    OnTheAisle
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    #206513

    In the 1960s, the Academy had certain popular genres that it favored. Best Picture nominees tended to host representation from films that captured on film Broadway musicals from the Golden Age of Theater or examined the British monarchy or featured big stars in commercial hits or spoke to the youth and the counter culture.

    The 1969 musical Best Picture nominee was the misfire of Hello, Dolly! starring a miscast Barbra Streisand. Despite being the biggest moneymaker of the year, cost overruns almost bankrupted the studio. Beginning with a Best Picture win for West Side Story in 1961, adaptations of Broadway hit musicals continued to land nominations – Meredith Willson’s The Music Man in 1962, My Fair Lady in 1964 (win), The Sound of Music in 1965 (win), and both Funny Girl and Oliver! in 1968 (win). The love affair of Oscar and Broadway continued with Fiddler on the Roof in 1971 and Cabaret in 1972.

    It is no surprise to Oscar aficiondadoes that the Academy is captivated by the British. Beginning with Becket in 1964, A Man for All Seasons in 1966 (win), The Lion in Winter in 1968 and then Anne of the Thousand Days in 1969, the Academy celebrated films about British monarchs. Though the retelling of the romance of Henry VIII and second wife Anne Boleyn led with ten nominations, it won only one – for costumes. The making of the epic was frought with tension. Two time Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor wanted to play opposite her husband in the film. The unenviable task of telling her she was too old fell on Richard Burton. Taylor tangled with ingenue Genevieve Bujold who won the role. While Taylor desperately sought to have Burton win Best Actor, she was less keen on seeing Bujold be honored. That, with the general feeling of disinterest in on-going tales of Kings of England, removed Anne of the Thousand Days from victory, despite a Golden Globe victory.

    Z, a foreign film and a novelty nominee, had to settle with a Best Picture nomination.

    The true rival for Midnight Cowboy was the entertaining Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A delightful romp with a hit song and big box office receipts and big stars seemed like a sure winner. Yet signs were evident from the nominations that something was amiss. None of the trio of big names – Robert Redford, Paul Newman or Katharine Ross – were nominated. The lack of support for the actors was telling. Further, director George Roy Hill had most recently made two Julie Andrews films that were not as financially successful as anticipated. He was not deemed ready to be named an Oscar winner. Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger had previously been nominated for Darling in 1965. The timing apparently wasn’t right for Hill. The Academy must restitution to the filmmaker with a Best Picture and Best Director win for the inferior caper The Sting four years later.

    The changing nature of sexual morality in American society landed Best Picture nominees beginning with Darling in 1965, Alfie in 1966, The Graduate in 1967, Rachel, Rachel in 1968, Midnight Cowboy in 1969, Five Easy Pieces in 1970, and A Clockwork Orange in 1971. The vocal objections to the failure of the Academy to recognize The Graduate as the Best Picture of 1967 set up a climate to insure a win for Dustin Hoffman’s subsequent artistic success Midnight Cowboy.

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    RobertPius
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    #206514

    How did Redford and Newman both get shut out for Butch Cassidy? Did they cancel each other out? Seems odd that Peter O’Toole got in ahead of them. 

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    OnTheAisle
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    #206515

    How did Redford and Newman both get shut out for Butch Cassidy? Did they cancel each other out? Seems odd that Peter O’Toole got in agead of them. 

    Remember the previous year Newman had made Rachel, Rachel. Though a Best Picture nominee, Newman was not nominated for Best Director. The film’s star and Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward had been sharp tongued in the press on the Academy’s omission. I suspect feelings had not yet mended.

    For Redford and Ross, I suspect the issue of category placement got in the way. You already had Hoffman nominated as lead for a supporting performance.

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    RobertPius
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    #206516

    Oh yeah. I’ve read they were very critical over the Rachel Rachel snub. (or at least Woodward was—was Newman also outspoken about it?)

    Were Redford and Ross campaigned for lead or supporting?

    I loved how that year they nominated Catherine Burns for Last Summer.

    That was a really interesting performance in a small film.

    Were Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon category fraud. How about Goldie Hawn? I don’t remember those films too well.

    To me the glaring omission of 1969 is Pamela Franklin for Miss Jean Brodie. That girl held her own with the formidable Maggie Smith in those final scenes of the film. She definitly was the definition of a Best Supporting Actress. Her work helped Smith rise to the level she did.  

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    OnTheAisle
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    #206517

    Oh yeah. I’ve read they were very critical over the Rachel Rachel snub. (or at least Woodward was—was Newman also outspoken about it?)

    Were Redford and Ross campaigned for lead or supporting?

    I loved how that year they nominated Catherine Burns for Last Summer.

    That was a really interesting performance in a small film.

    Were Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon category fraud. How about Goldie Hawn? I don’t remember those films too well.

    To me the glaring omission of 1969 is Pamela Franklin for Miss Jean Brodie. That girl held her own with the formidable Maggie Smith in those final scenes of the film. She definitly was the definition of a Best Supporting Actress. Her work helped Smith rise to the level she did.  

    Newman was credited for calming Woodward and convincing her to attend the Oscar ceremony.

    Both Redford and Ross were considered leads. Both won at BAFTA. Newman was also nominated as Best Actor.

    Catherine Burns is very good in Last Summer. She was appearing as a regular in the soap opera One Life to Live at the time of the film’s release. Sadly, she never again received a role as strong as Rhoda.

    Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon had greater notoriety from their marriages (Barbra Streisand and Cray Grant, respectively) than as performers when Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was released. The more established Natalie Wood and Robert Culp were the leads in the popular comedy.

    Goldie Hawn was supporting. Ingrid Bergman was the female lead.

    Pamela Franklin is very good opposite Maggie Smith. Like Catherine Burns, Franklin’s career lost steam and never fully delivered on her early promise.

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