A rare cinema book that is as mesmerizing as its subject.



An inside look at the making of an American cinema classic.

“Do you really think anyone’s going to pay money to see a movie about a dumb Texan who takes a bus to New York to seek his fortune screwing rich old women?” That’s the question John Schlesinger, the British director, asked Jon Voight, who played dumb Texan Joe Buck. Did they ever. Midnight Cowboy, the director’s first American feature, was the third-highest-grossing movie of 1969 and became the only X-rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. In this outstanding work, following his worthy excavations of The Searchers and High Noon, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Frankel covers every facet of the film’s creation, from James Leo Herlihy’s original novel about the unlikely friendship between a “handsome but not overly bright dishwasher from Texas” keen to make his mark as a male hustler and Ratso Rizzo, a “disabled, tubercular con man and petty thief,” to the hiring of screenwriter Waldo Salt, who began each day’s work with “a joint as fat as a small cigar,” to Schlesinger’s daring decision to adapt “a novel that was so bleak, troubling, and sexually raw that no ordinary film studio would go near it.” In a canny move, Frankel places the film in historical context, detailing major world events at the time of the shoot, including the Vietnam War, New York’s “downward path to seemingly terminal decline,” and the Stonewall riots and competing attitudes toward gay people in general—Herlihy and Schlesinger were gay—and their depictions in cinema. Interviews with the film’s surviving principals add immediacy, and descriptions of small production details enhance the book’s power. For example, Dustin Hoffman (Rizzo), put stones in his shoes to perfect the character’s limp, and the filmmakers hired a dentist to make a false set of Rizzo’s bad teeth, which “looked really horrible,” said the dentist. “I was pleased.”

A rare cinema book that is as mesmerizing as its subject.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-20901-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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