In the film Midnight Cowboy, the background story of would-be hustler Joe Buck is given in a series of flashbacks, many of which feature a young woman named Annie. Because the flashbacks are so brief and disjointed, it's difficult to piece together a coherent story. We repeatedly see Joe and Annie having sex, and we repeatedly hear statements or voice-overs from various women (including Annie) telling Joe that he's the best or that he's the "only one". We also see scenes of Joe with a group of men, and scenes with Joe or Annie running with or from a group of men, or being restrained by them. In some scenes the police are involved.

What exactly is Joe's relationship to Annie, and what happened between them? Was she his girlfriend? Why is she seen with the police, or running from the group of men? Was she the victim of a rape or other assault, and if so, was Joe participating in it or defending her from it? Is Annie's statement that Joe is the "only one" meant to be an accusation to the police that he assaulted her? (And if Joe really was a violent rapist, why is he so kind, forgiving, and helpful to everyone in New York? The only time he's shown using violence or taking advantage of others is in what he believes to be a life-and-death matter to save a friend.)

1 Answer 1


It's presented in a broken series of flashbacks in the film, but the novel is much clearer. To quote from the novel's wiki:

Joe loses his virginity during his mid-teens to Annie, a girl who would regularly take on six boys at a time upon a dirty mattress behind a movie theater screen, each waiting patiently in line for his turn. Joe was the first boy she ever enjoyed having sex with, leading to a secret relationship that is squelched when one of Annie’s many jealous “users” alerted her father to his daughter’s activities, after which Annie is swiftly institutionalized.

  • The article you cite also contains the following caveat: "The movie, which was adapted by screenwriter Waldo Salt, was not entirely faithful to the book, omitting or altering some aspects of Joe's early life." I wonder, then, if the plot snippet you posted fully and accurately summarizes what's shown in the flashbacks. Did Salt himself (or anyone else involved in the production of the film) comment on Buck's backstory and its differences from the novel?
    – Psychonaut
    Mar 9, 2016 at 10:56
  • @Psychonaut: Good question and to be fair I haven't dug that deep. I just wanted to show what the novel showed, as most films alter the backstory somewhat. I'm not aware of anyone from the production team commenting on this though. Mar 9, 2016 at 11:05

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