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John Richard Schlesinger, CBE (16 February 1926 – 25 July 2003) was an Englishmarker film and stage director.

Early life

Schlesinger was born in Londonmarker into a middle class Jewish family, the son of Winifred Henrietta (née Regensburg) and Bernard Edward Schlesinger, a physician. After Uppingham Schoolmarker and graduating from Balliol Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker, he worked as an actor.


One of his earliest films, the British Transport Films' documentary Terminus (1960), gained a Venice Film Festival Gold Lion and a British Academy Award. His first two fiction movies, A Kind of Loving (1962) and Billy Liar (1963) were set 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 Oscar 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 Theatremarker. From 1973 he was an associate director of the Royal National Theatremarker.

Openly gay, Schlesinger dealt with homosexuality in Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday and The Next Best Thing, and two main characters in Marathon Man were at least implicitly gay. Speaking about Midnight Cowboy's unflattering portrayal of homosexuality, he stated that he was against political correctness and the self-censorship it encourages, which would prevent such a film from being made today.

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 Brixtonmarker in south Londonmarker where he had spent his teenage years, which highlighted his humble background, atypical for a Conservative politician. Schlesinger admitted to voting for all three main political parties in the UK at one time or another.

The book and TV series The Glittering Prizes, writer Frederic Raphael, who won the Best Screenwriting Oscar for his work on Schlesinger's film Darling, feature a character believed to be based on Schlesinger.


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 Springsmarker on July 24, 2003 by his life partner of over 30 years, photographer Michael Childers. Schlesinger died early the following day at the age of 77.


Feature and television films


  1. Obituary: John Schlesinger, filmmaker, 1926-2003
  2. John Schlesinger Biography (1926-)

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