Typed Letter Signed regarding Midnight Cowboy

N.p. N.p. 1966. Typed letter signed from "Midnight Cowboy" author James Leo Herlihy, dated "4/3/1966" in holograph pencil. Although the letter is to an unknown recipient (the letter convivially begins "Hello, idiot"), he and Herlihy are clearly friends as there are several references to previous, ongoing correspondence and mutual friends, as well as his work, particularly "Midnight Cowboy."

Herlihy begins the letter noting that he is vacationing in the Hamptons and "writing a long story or a short novel... Something about a magician, for godsake." He then notes that "Midnight Cowboy" was optioned and that "Schlesinger [John, who would direct the finished film]... seems hot to do it," and follows with an assessment that, due to financial pressure and fear of risk, "good-film-making is at [its] lowest ebb in years."

Following, as it does, a mention of "Midnight Cowboy," this criticism is especially apropos. At the time of the this letter, the American film industry was indeed at a low point, with the studio system all but collapsed and nothing yet risen to take its place. By the time the film version of Herlihy's novel was released three years later, the nascent New Hollywood movement was on its way to becoming a cultural force, one that "Midnight Cowboy" played a key role in developing. Not only would the principle creators behind the film (Schlesinger, screenwriter Waldo Salt, and stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight) go on to do work that would resonate throughout the following decade, but the film's exploration of loneliness and isolation in a changing America, as well as its dealing in previously taboo subjects of prostitution, drug addiction, and homosexuality, foreshadows the themes of many of the New Hollywood films to come.

Herlihy concludes the letter with a mention that director Joshua Logan is interested in working with him, and that Herlihy wants to do a project called "Peaceable Land," but Logan has to find time to read it because he is filming "Camelot" for Warner Bros. Logan, more successful as a theatre rather than film director, had previously directed the original Broadway production of Herlihy's play "Blue Denim" in 1958.

All in all, a pointed, humorous letter (Herlihy signs it as "Lanny Ross," making reference to the old time radio singer and personality) that nevertheless provides great insight into the genesis of one of the key early New Hollywood films and the wider status of film culture during its production.

8.5 x 11 inches, single leaf, recto only. Folded twice for mailing, else Near Fine.


[Book #135090]

Price: $1,500.00