JOHN SCHLESINGER BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Oscar winning director John Schlesinger was born in London, England on February 16, 1926. After graduating from Balliol College, Oxford, he to work in television as an actor. He was soon hired by BBC to work as a freelance documentarian. In 1956 he began his directorial career with the documentary short “Sunday in the Park”. His next documentary, “Terminus” (1961), earned a Venice Film Festival Gold Lion and a British Academy Award. Schlesinger made a transition to feature films with the romantic drama “A Kind of Loving” (1962), adapted from a Stan Barstow novel. The picture followed a natural “kitchen sink” filming style, starring Alan Bates as an unexpectedly low-key protagonist. It proved to be popular, winning the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear Award. His next feature, the Northern England comedy “Billy Liar” (1963), starred Julie Christie in her first leading role. She again played the title character in the director’s subsequent movie, “Darling” (1965), a romantic drama about a beautiful model who sleeps her way to the top of the London Fashion scene in the swinging sixties. Christie won an Oscar for her performance, and Schlesinger earned a nod for Best Director.
The director’s next picture was “Far from the Maddening Crowd” (1967), an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s well-liked novel. Christie played the headstrong, playful Bathsheba Everdine, while Terence Stamp, Alan Bates, and Peter Finch played her three suitors. 1969 saw the internationally recognized “Midnight Cowboy”, which won three Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. The X-rated film (later re-rated as R, without any cuts) depicted the relationship between a man from Texas who becomes a prostitute in order to survive in New York and his equally struggling outcast, city dwelling friend. CNN.com wrote: “The film’s homosexual theme was regarded as scandalous, but the tale was embraced by critics and Hollywood despite its shocking sequences”. It went on to become a huge box office hit, and eventually a classic, while also earning Schlesinger a place in cinematic history.
In 1971 the director released another groundbreaking picture, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, about male artist Bob (Murray Head) who bed hops between an older, divorced working woman, Alex (Glenda Jackson), and a young, male family doctor, Daniel (Peter Finch). As reported by the Times of London: “A passionate kiss between Finch and Murray Head signaled one of cinema’s first mature treatments of homosexuality and enabled Schlesinger, himself gay, ‘to express myself publicly.’”
The director put out two more successful films after: the early Hollywood drama “The Day of the Locust” (1975) and “Marathon Man” (1976), a thriller. 1979’s popular “Yanks” explored the romances and cultural exchanges that occurred as a result of the stationing of American troops in Britain during WWII. Schlesinger’s first real flop came with the comedy “Honky Tonk Freeway” (1981). After this failure, many of the director’s films did not carry the same prominence as his earlier work.
A number of rather forgettable pictures and television films were released during the eighties, with the exception of “Madame Sousatzka” (1988). The Golden Globe winning musical drama garnered some attention for Shirley MacLaine’s performance as a talented but unsuccessful piano teacher. 1995’s “Cold Comfort Farm” was also rather memorable. The film, originally released on British television, followed an orphan who moves on to distant relatives’ farm, and proceeds to help them solve their various problems.
In 2000 Schlesinger directed his final film, “The Next Best Thing”. The romantic comedy, starring Madonna and Rupert Everett, depicted the story of a straight woman who decides to raise a child with her gay friend. This was the third film that the director made dealing with homosexuality. He was openly gay as well.
John Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass in 1998, and then suffered from a stroke in December of 2000. After being in and out of the hospital, his life partner, Michael Childers, took him off of life support. He died the following day, July 25, 2003, in Palm Springs, California. He was seventy three years old.
2000 The Next Best Thing
1997 The Tale of Sweeney Todd
1996 Eye for an Eye
1995 Cold Comfort Farm
1993 The Innocent
1991 Screen One
1990 Pacific Heights
1988 Madame Sousatzka
1987 The Believers
1985 The Falcon and the Snowman
1983 An Englishman Abroad
1983 Separate Tables
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway
1976 Marathon Man
1975 The Day of the Locust
1973 Visions of Eight
1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday
1969 Midnight Cowboy
1967 Far from the Madding Crowd
1967 The Wednesday Play
1963 Billy Liar
1962 A Kind of Loving
1960 Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years
1960 Danger Man
1956 Sunday in the Park