Gay Director John Schlesinger Dies

Fri. July 25, 2003 12:00 AM by

Los Angeles, California - Film director John Schlesinger died Friday in a Palm Springs hospital, less than a day after he was taken off life support. He was 77. Schlesinger suffered a stroke two years ago, from which he never recovered.

During a career which spanned a half century he was best known for the groundbreaking "Midnight Cowboy" for which he won an Academy Award in 1969 for Best Picture.

The film was controversial at the time, tackling the subject of hustling for the first time in a major film. Jon Voight who played the naive Texan who turns to prostitution to survive in New York became a major star as a result of the movie."

The film is credited with bringing the first realistic glimpse of gay life to the big screen and marked the beginning of gay cinema.

Dustin Hoffman who played opposite Voight in "Midnight Cowboy" issued a statement Friday saying "Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet, 'We will never see the likes of him again.'"

Schlesinger was born in Britain and educated at Oxford. The son of a London doctor, he started making home movies at the age of 11. His first feature film was Terminus in 1961, a documentary which recorded 24 hours in the life of London's Waterloo station.

He came to America in 1968 and "Midnight Cowboy" was first US feature. He followed it up with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in 1971. "Sunday" dealt in frank terms with the triangle of a bisexual man, his older gay lover and his mistress and featured one of the screen's first same-sex kisses. Schlesinger described the film as largely autobiographical.

He also brought us thrillers like "The Falcon and the Snowman", starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton as two young Americans convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

In 1970 he told an interviewer "I'm only interested in one thing - that is tolerance. 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."

His last film was perhaps his worst, the badly received 2000 comedy "The Next Best Thing" about a straight woman (Madonna) who decides to have a child with her gay friend (Rupert Everett).

Schlesinger leaves behind his partner of 30 years, Michael Childers.

by Matt Johns Newscenter
Los Angeles Bureau
©® 2003

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