Glenn Frankel, building on his success writing fascinating books about great American movies, does it again in this penetrating look at Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. The first and only X-rated movie to win the Oscar for best picture, the film was raw and taboo-breaking and told the story of a Texas hustler trying to survive on the streets of New York. It pushed boundaries, addressing homosexuality, prostitution, and sexual assault, and Frankel not only goes behind-the-scenes into how the movie got made, but places it in the context of its times—the social upheaval of the 1960s, New York City’s grittiness, and Hollywood in transition.
My favorite thing about Karina Longworth’s biography of Howard Hughes is that it’s not about Howard Hughes at all. Seduction is really the story of the women in Hughes’s life—Katharine Hepburn, Jane Russell, among others—in all their complicated, messy glory. Readers might know Longworth from her podcast “You Must Remember This,” in which she breaks down the myths of Hollywood history from the Golden Age to today. Seduction is a perfect companion to Longworth’s podcast—the ideal balance of scandalous anecdotes and well-researched historical context that make for a compelling, satisfying read.