jschlesinger.jpgJohn Schlesinger, an Academy Award-winning director, died on July 24. Cause of death was not released. He was 77.
Schlesinger served in the British army in World War II, then studied English literature at Oxford University. There he joined the school’s Dramatic Society, where he learned to act on the stage. His love of theatre continued throughout his life — he was an associate director at London’s National Theater — but his true calling was directing film.
Schlesinger worked on two dozen documentaries for the BBC before making his first movie, “Terminus.” Throughout the ’60s, Schlesinger built up a reputation in Britain as a social realist by making the films, “A Kind of Loving,” “Darling” and “Billy Liar.”
In 1969, American audiences embraced his film, “Midnight Cowboy,” which starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. Schlesinger took home the Academy Award for Best Director, and the movie won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. To date, “Midnight Cowboy” is the only X-rated movie to ever win a best picture Oscar.
Schlesinger followed that success with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which earned him British Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Film, and the violent thriller, “Marathon Man,” starring Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. Thanks to William Goldman’s script and Schlesinger’s deft direction, few moviegoers will ever hear the phrase, “Is it safe?” without shuddering in fear.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Schlesinger directed several films, including “The Falcon and the Snowman,” “Madame Sousatzka” and “Pacific Heights.” His last movie, however, was the comedy flop, “The Next Best Thing,” starring Madonna and Rupert Everett.
Audio interviews with the BBC