An amiable country boy (Jon Voight) heads to New York, aiming to make his fortune as a gigolo, but instead spends the winter befriending a con man (Dustin Hoffman), who hasn’t long to live.
For his role as the unattractive bum Ratso Rizzo, Hoffman was paid ten times more than he received for his part in The Graduate (1967) a couple of years ago.
With greasy hair, pallid complexion, bad teeth and gammy leg, he brilliantly represents a man who merges easily into the seedy and sordid atmosphere of New York as conjured up by British director John Schlesinger (making his first American movie).
It is the relationship between the big blonde likeable dim-wit and the small down-and-outer that is the impressive centrepiece of this comedy-drama.
John Barry’s score and Harry Nilsson‘s songs have enjoyed a successful afterlife that occasionally threatens to eclipse this tender, funny, and ultimately noble film, but the performances of the two leads and Schlesinger’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning direction give it a compassionate humanity rarely seen.
The harmonica theme tune is so haunting you’ll feel like taking your chances as a male tart on the streets of Manhattan.