Director John Schlesenger dies at 77
July 25, 2003
LOS ANGELES - British film director John Schlesinger died Friday at the age of
77 in a hospital in Palm Springs, California, a hospital spokesman
Schlesinger, who suffered a stroke three years ago, was best
known for directing the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, in which famed
actor Dustin Hoffman made his breakthrough. The film won three
Oscars including Best Film and Best Director for its story about a
cowboy (Jon Voight) who turns to prostitution to survive in New
The openly gay Schlesinger said that the most important theme of
his movie was tolerance.
"I'm only interested in one thing - that is tolerance," he said
in 1970. "I'm terribly concerned about people and the limitation of
freedom. It's important to get people to care a little for someone
else. That's why I'm more interested in the failures of this world
than the successes."
Also nominated for Oscars were the Schlesinger films Darling,
Billy Liar, and Sunday Bloody Sunday. Other notable films
included 1985's The Falcon and the Snowman, while his biggest
commercial success was 1975's The Marathon Man.
His last film was the 2000 comedy The Next Best Thing - about
a straight woman (Madonna) who decides to have a child with her gay
friend (Rupert Everett).
Born in London in 1926, Schlesinger studied English literature
at Oxford, where he also acted in several university productions.
He began acting with several repertory companies and made several
short films for the BBC before turning to feature films.
"John was the best, and the best always wanted to work with
him," said Richard Gere Friday. "John's string of films in the '60s
and '70s are as astonishingly good as any films made, anytime,
anywhere ... audacious, challenging, irascible, moving, witty,
wise, and deeply personal. He was an original."
In 1970, Schlesinger was made CBE (Commander of the British
Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He is survived by his partner of 3
years, photographer Michael Childers; his brother, Roger
Schlesinger; and his sister, Hilary Schlesinger. -Sapa-DPA