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Wednesday August 12th 2020

Midnight Cowboy | 1969

Midnight Cowboy film location: Peninsula Hotel, Fifth Avenue, New York
Midnight Cowboy film location: Ratso dreams of riches as Joe Buck hits the Berkeley Hotel for Women: Peninsula Hotel, Fifth Avenue, New York

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) turns himself into a cowboy stud to escape a dreary life washing dishes at Miller’s Restaurant, which was in the town of Big Spring, on I-80 between Midland and Abilene, West Texas.

The ‘Big Tex’ drive-in of the opening shot was the, now-gone, Sahara Drive-in Theater on I-20, also in Big Spring. East of the town, the nightmare baptism flashback seen later in the movie was filmed at Moss Creek Lake.

A few miles to the west of Big Spring, the old house, where Joe Buck makes out with Crazy Annie, is the historic Millhollon House on I-20 Frontage Road, just northeast of Stanton.

Moving to New York, Buck stays at the now-gone Claridge Hotel, which stood on 44th Street overlooking the old lo-tech Times Square. Also gone is the department store he walks past  on his arrival in the hostile metropolis. It was Best & Co, which stood on Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, and can also be seen in The Godfather, shortly before its demolition.

Still there, though, is Tiffany & Co, 727 Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, outside which Joe Buck is disturbed by the sight of an inert body lying face down and ignored on the sidewalk. It all seemed so much nicer in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, which seems to belong to a much more innocent age.

Midnight Cowboy film location: East 70th Street, New York
Midnight Cowboy film location: Joe Buck’s momentary dream of easy success: East 70th Street, New York

Joe’s sunny optimism starts to crumble as his first approach to a smart uptown lady evaporates in fantasy outside her townhouse at 117 East 70th Street at Park Avenue on the East Side.

Midnight Cowboy film location: 72nd Street, East Side, New York
Midnight Cowboy film location: the ‘real damn penthouse’ of gorgeous chick Cass: 72nd Street, East Side, New York

Two blocks north, it just gets worse at the “real damn penthouse”  of gorgeous chick Cass (the wonderfully scene stealing Sylvia Miles), 114 East 72nd Street on the East Side. The daytime quickie ends in tears when Joe clumsily asks Cass for money.

One of the movie’s most famous moments  – referenced in films as diverse as Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues and Forrest Gump – has Dustin Hoffman famously improvising “I’m walkin’ here...” to an intrusive yellow cab as ‘Ratso’ Rizzo (Hoffman) and the toe-curlingly naive Joe Buck cross 58th Street at Sixth Avenue.

As a kind of resentful friendship grows between the two outcasts, Joe glumly accompanies Rizzo to pay respects at his father’s grave in the vast Calvary Cemetery, at Woodside in Queens. Another Godfather location, Calvary became the last resting place of Don Corleone.

The fictitious ‘Berkeley Hotel for Women’, where Rizzo, now Buck’s enthusiastic ‘manager’ fantasises that his property’s studly prowess will prove the key to boundless riches, was the Gotham Hotel. Gutted and refurbished in the Eighties, but still recognisable, it’s now the Peninsula New York, 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street.

The final bus journey was filmed on the Miracle Mile stretch of Coral Gables, southwest of Miami, Florida.