John Richard Schlesinger, CBE (February 16, 1926 – July 25, 2003) was an Academy Award-winning English film director.
Schlesinger was born in London
into a middle class Jewish
family, the son of Winifred Henrietta (née
Regensburg) and Bernard Edward Schlesinger, a physician. He went on to work in television
as an actor after graduating from Uppingham School
and Balliol College
One of his first movies, the documentary Terminus
(1960), earned him a Venice Film Festival
Gold Lion and a British Academy Award
. His first two movies, A Kind of Loving
(1962) and Billy Liar
(1963) were concerned with the life of characters based in the North of England. His third Darling
(1965) described tartly the modern urban way of life in London and was one of the first films about swinging London
. Schlesinger's next movie was Far From the Madding Crowd
(1967), an adaptation of Thomas Hardy
's popular novel. Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy
(1969) was internationally acclaimed and it won Oscars
for Best Director
and Best Picture
His later films include Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), The Day of the Locust (1975), Marathon Man (1976), Yanks (1979), Pacific Heights (1990), A Question of Attribution (1991), The Innocent (1993) and The Next Best Thing (2000). Schlesinger also directed Timon of Athens (1965) for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the musical I and Albert (1972) at London's Piccadilly Theatre. From 1973 he was an associate director of the Royal National Theatre.
Openly gay, Schlesinger dealt with homosexuality in Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday and The Next Best Thing.
Schlesinger also directed a notable party political broadcast for the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom general election, 1992 which featured Prime Minister John Major returning to Brixton in south London where he had spent his teenage years, which highlighted his humble (and atypical for a traditional Conservative) background.
Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass
in 1998, before suffering a stroke
in December 2000. He was taken off life support
at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs
on July 24
by his life partner of over 30 years, photographer Michael Childers. Schlesinger died early the following day at the age of 77.