When I set out to write about the making of Midnight Cowboy, the gritty, groundbreaking X-rated drama that won the best-picture Oscar in 1970, I expected to focus on director John Schlesinger and on Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, whose powerful performances are among the finest in film history. But I soon discovered a parade of talented men and women who played pivotal roles in making the movie great.

None more so than Ann Roth. The wildly inventive costume designer created memorable outfits for Ratso Rizzo, a tubercular petty thief from the Bronx played by Hoffman, and Joe Buck, a hopelessly naïve male hustler from Texas played by Voight. Roth has been one of the premier designers for movies and theater for more than a half-century and is still going strong—when I met her at her eastern-Pennsylvania farmhouse, she had three shows opening on Broadway at the same time. While making me a perfect omelet, she talked about dressing Hoffman with undisguised pride, as if it were yesterday.