Director John Schlesinger Dies

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Peter Kline, Jul 25, 2003.

  1. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Director John Schlesinger dies at 77

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Schlesinger, whose Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy and thrillers like The Falcon and the Snowman explored lonely underdogs in modern society, died Friday. He was 77. The British-born filmmaker had a debilitating stroke in December 2000, and his condition deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. He was taken off life support at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on Thursday and died early Friday, hospital spokeswoman Eva Saltonstall said.
    Doctors took Schlesinger off life support on Thursday.

    "He did pass this morning," she said, declining any further information.

    Schlesinger broke ground with 1969's Midnight Cowboy, which starred Jon Voight as a naive Texan who turns to prostitution to survive in New York and Dustin Hoffman as the scuzzy, ailing vagrant Ratso Rizzo.

    The film's homosexual theme was regarded as scandalous, but the tale of underdogs trying to survive in a merciless metropolis was embraced by critics and Hollywood despite its shocking sequences.

    Based on a novel by James Leo Herlihy, Midnight Cowboy was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three — best director, best picture and best adapted screenplay. It was the only X-rated film ever to win the Oscar for best picture; reflecting changing standards, the rating was later lowered to an "R."

    The stocky, baldheaded filmmaker — who was gay — said in 1970: "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."

    After Midnight Cowboy he explored homosexuality again in his next project with 1971's Sunday Bloody Sunday, which starred Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson as acquaintances who each reluctantly share a love for the same young man. The director received another Oscar nomination for the film.

    The characters in Schlesinger's films often struggled with their place in the world, and he depicted them as lonely, disenchanted and sometimes forgotten. In 1975, he directed an adaptation of the Nathanael West novel The Day of the Locust, about young wannabe-stars who find only disappointment in Hollywood.

    Schlesinger himself felt an estrangement from his own success. "If I've ever had any commercial success, it's been a total fluke. I wouldn't have known Midnight Cowboy would have done so well," Schlesinger said in 1990.
     
  2. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

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  3. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

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    Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man, Falcon and the Snowman- great films. RIP, sir.
     
  4. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Very sad day. Midnight Cowboy is one of the films that made me a more serious film fan and opened up a lot of doors in terms of realizing what other sorts of films existed and expanding my tastes. Thank you Sir, RIP.
     
  5. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Loved his work, especially "Marathon Man".

    RIP
     
  6. Bill Huelbig

    Bill Huelbig Second Unit

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    His film SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY comes to DVD in September - one of the best films of the early '70's and that's saying a lot.

    R.I.P.

    --Bill
     
  7. andrew markworthy

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    Don't forget 'A Kind of Loving', one of the best of the 'gritty realism' movies of the early 60s, that looked realistically at British working class life without using it as a soapbox for political hectoring. I have a vested interest in mentioning that movie, as my uncle worked on it (and Sunday Bloody Sunday, if memory serves me correctly). Indeed, he worked with a whole load of the Brit directors of the period and always rated Schlesinger as the best to work for. In my uncle's experience, he was also immensely kind and thoughtful in private.

    I think when future generations of film critics get their heads out of their bottoms and look back at the 60s and 70s movies objectively, Schlesinger will still be up there at the top of the pile when the pretentious current darlings of the European intelligensia have been at long last swept away.

    However, although a great talent, perhaps we should not mourn his passing too much. He had been seriously ill for a very long time, and at the risk of ending on a cliche, it sounds as if it was a merciful release.
     
  8. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Sad news, never been a fan of Midnight Cowboy, but I loved Marathon Man, one of the best thrillers ever IMO.

    RIP [​IMG]
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    very sad news indeed as he brought out the best in Dustin Hoffman

    RIP
     
  10. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

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    I'm a big fan of Midnight Cowboy, thanks for the memories. You will be missed. RIP. [​IMG]
     
  11. Deepak Shenoy

    Deepak Shenoy Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG] RIP Mr. Schlesinger.

    Don't forget Billy Liar - another excellent movie directed by John Schlesinger (available on Criterion DVD).

    -D
     
  12. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

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    A great filmmaker whom I will miss, and I fully echo Brook's statement: "Midnight Cowboy is one of the films that made me a more serious film fan and opened up a lot of doors in terms of realizing what other sorts of films existed and expanding my tastes".

    Jason
     
  13. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Producer

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    Midnight Cowboy is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    It was somewhat ironic that Schlesinger was a Brit, and was able to so perfectly capture the American landscape in Midnight Cowboy.

    RIP Mr. Schlesinger.
     
  14. Roderick Gauci

    Roderick Gauci Stunt Coordinator

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    Although I had read some time ago that his health was in decline, I was still rather shocked by the sad news of the passing of John Schlesinger.

    The films he made between 1962 and 1979 were all excellent and often provocative films; besides, let’s not forget that actors such as Alan Bates, Julie Christie and Jon Voight owe their stardom to him, in a way, while Tom Courtenay and Dustin Hoffman (among others) delivered their finest on-screen performance under his direction. Unfortunately, his career seems to have dwindled in the last two decades, but he still managed to turn out the occasionally worthwhile picture.

    I have watched 10 of his feature films so far, most of which I own on VHS:

    1. A KIND OF LOVING (1962) – by all means a stunning debut, this is a quintessential “kitchen sink” drama with excellent performances all around; maybe the BFI will now release it on R2 DVD to complement their recently released SE discs of SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960), A TASTE OF HONEY (1961) and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER (1962).

    2. BILLY LIAR (1963) – this film, with its iconic and anarchic hero, its imaginative flights of fancy and exuberant film-making techniques, can be said to have spearheaded the “Swinging Sixties” era of British films, and remains one of its finest examples; now would be the right time to upgrade to the Criterion DVD which also includes an Audio Commentary by Schlesinger (as well as Tom Courtney and Julie Christie).

    3. DARLING (1965) – one of the highlights of the "Swinging Sixties", this stylish but by-now very dated film is kept alive by top performances and Fredric Raphael's sharp dialogue; Criterion’s LD included another Audio Commentary by Schlesinger but I don’t know if they own the DVD rights.

    4. FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967) – an intimate epic, superbly cast (Christie, Bates, Peter Finch, Terence Stamp) and magnificently shot (by Nicolas Roeg), which doesn't feel old-fashioned thanks to Fredric Raphael's meticulous adaptation; unfortunately I have only watched this in a cut and very muddy print that was panned-and-scanned to boot! I’d like to watch it properly on a decent DVD release one of these days.

    5. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969) – Schlesinger’s controversial masterpiece captured the seedy side of N.Y. better than most films made by ‘keen-eyed’ American directors of the time, and it remains one of the classics of modern cinema; Criterion’s LD included an Audio Commentary by Schlesinger and producer Jerome Hellman and it’s a pity that MGM couldn’t ‘borrow’ it for their DVD edition which is now, sadly, bare-bones!

    6. SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY (1971) – a daring but sensitive (and, in hindsight, very personal) look at homosexuality, unhampered by maudlin sentimentality and aided by excellent performances from Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch.

    7. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (1975) - a darkly satirical look at Hollywood in the Thirties with a fine cast, perfect ambience and a nightmarish ending; maybe Paramount should look into this one next, now that they will be releasing Elia Kazan’s THE LAST TYCOON (1976)!

    8. MARATHON MAN (1976) – even though on the surface it was just a commercial assignment, this is still one of his best films with Hoffman in top form and a great, latter-day performance reeking of sadistic malevolence from Laurence Olivier.

    9. YANKS (1979) – despite the presence of Richard Gere, this is a good film detailing the clash of cultures (American vs. British) in a WWII context.

    10. THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN (1985) – a harrowing Cold War espionage story based on real events with a typically good turn from Sean Penn.

    This week I’ll try and squeeze in a few of those which I’ve only watched once (DARLING, THE DAY OF THE LOCUST and YANKS), as well as Paramount’s R2 DVD of MARATHON MAN, and perhaps I’ll also rent a couple more on VHS – THE BELIEVERS (1987) and THE INNOCENT (1993). My local video rental shop also has AN EYE FOR AN EYE (1996) and THE NEXT BEST THING (2000) but it would probably be insulting to watch them at this stage, the former being merely a routine potboiler unworthy of his talents, while the latter is universally acknowledged as his career nadir!
     
  15. andrew markworthy

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    Roderick, you left out Cold Comfort Farm, which was pretty good.
     
  16. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Yes I too have read here & there that Marathon Man was just a standard "Hollywood" thriller...I disagree with this notion because the script and the novel it is based on, both penned by William Goldman, have much deeper subtext, meaning & allegory than is readily noticeable at first blush. The book more-so than the film but...what can you do..the book almost always wins in these cases.

    I am so sorry to hear of John Schlesinger's death, we have lost one of our best directors.
     
  17. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Had to go out on a Madonna flick, too... [​IMG]
     
  18. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark Second Unit

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    Schlesinger seemed to bring out top notch performances from his actors. Dustin Hoffman is one of my all time favorite actors and Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man represent two of my favorite Hoffman films. What stood out in Midnight Cowboy for me was how well the "buddy aspect" of the film played out as the Jon Voight and Hoffman characters, despite being so different and from such different backgrounds, were pushed together by fate and desparation and developed a unique friendship. Far from the Madding Crowd was a good movie with magnetic performances that made me a huge Julie Christie fan.
     
  19. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Sad news indeed.

    RIP to another great filmmaker.
     
  20. Anthony Neilson

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    Goodbye John Schlesinger.

    It is safe.
     

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