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John Richard Schlesinger was an eminent Academy Award-winning English film director who was part of the new generation of directors in England in the 1960s who effectively ushered in a new perspective and modern approach in his films. Schlesinger began his career in the film industry in the 1950s as a supporting actor in British films and television shows. His debut film, ‘Sunday in the Park,’ was followed by others, including one on famed composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten. In the 1960s, he pursued a full-fledged directorial career. Starting with the fiction picture ‘A King of Loving,’ he went on to make a string of critically praised and box office hits in both the United States and his own country over the next nearly four decades. ‘Darling,’ ‘Pacific Heights,’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ the latter of which garnered him a ‘Academy Award for Best Director.’ ‘Timon of Athens’ (1965), ‘I and Albert’ (1972), and George Bernard Shaw’s famous play ‘Heartbreak House’ were among the productions he directed on stage (1975). He directed many operas, including ‘Les contes d’Hoffmann’ (1980) and ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ (1984). In 1970, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contributions to film. On January 10, 2003, he was honored with a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

Childhood and Adolescence

He was born on February 16, 1926, in London, England, to Bernard Edward Schlesinger and Winifred Henrietta (née Regensburg), a middle-class Jewish family.

Schlesinger’s father was a pediatrician, and both of his parents were musicians who instilled in him an early love of the arts. He enjoyed playing the piano while his father and mother played the cello and violin, respectively.

Although he wanted to be an architect at first, a home movie camera that was given to him when he was 10 changed his mind, and the little lad seemed completely absorbed in his new toy.

He went to Hindhead’s St Edmund’s School and then to Uppingham, Rutland’s ‘Uppingham School.’
During the ‘Second World War,’ he served with the ‘Royal Engineers,’ where he made the amateur film ‘Horrors.’
He studied English Literature at ‘Balliol College’ at ‘Oxford University’ after the war. He became involved with the college’s Undergraduate Dramatic Society and appeared in several theatrical performances while there. He then became the society’s President and traveled across America with it.

Gradually, he developed an interest in photography, and while in college, he produced a number of experimental films, many of which received honors. He filmed his first short film, ‘Black Legend,’ while still in college in 1948.

Career of John Schlesinger

Following his graduation in 1950, he began acting on stage and in films in the United Kingdom, and was later hired as a freelance documentarian by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

In the early 1950s, he toured the United States, New Zealand, and Australia with theatrical troops.
Early in his career, he appeared in British films such as ‘The Divided Heart’ (1954), ‘Oh… Rosalinda!!’ (1955), and ‘The Battle of the River Plate’ (1956). He appeared in a number of British television shows at the same time, including ‘The Vise,’ ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood,’ and ‘BBC Sunday Night Theatre.’
In 1956, he made his directorial debut with ‘Sunday in the Park,’ a 15-minute short documentary that depicted Londoners enjoying a carefree day in Hyde Park.

Schlesinger was hired as a filmmaker by ‘BBC TV’ in 1957, and between 1958 and 1961, he produced more than 20 documentaries for two of its programs, ‘Tonight’ and ‘Monitor.’
He directed 23 episodes of the TV series ‘The Four Just Men,’ which was produced by Sapphire Films in 1959. In four episodes of another TV show, ‘Danger Man,’ he served as the outside director.
In the 1960s, he shifted his concentration to directing and stopped acting. His 1961 documentary ‘Terminus,’ which featured a “fly-on-the-wall” view of London’s Waterloo Station on an ordinary day and won the ‘Venice Film Festival’ Gold Lion and a British Academy Award, won him the ‘Venice Film Festival’ Gold Lion and a British Academy Award. ‘Israel: A Right to Live’ (1967) and ‘Visions of Eight’ (part, ‘The Longest’ in 1973) were two other notable documentaries directed by him.

The British drama ‘A Kind of Loving,’ which was released in the UK on April 12, 1962 and in the US on October 1, 1962, was the film that cemented his reputation as a mainstream filmmaker. The film, which was based on Stan Barstow’s 1960 novel of the same name, was part of the emergent British New Wave movement of filmmaking. It was a commercial success, finishing sixth at the British box office that year. That year, it was also awarded the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival.

Following the moderate box-office success of the black-and-white Cinema Scope film ‘Billy Liar’ (1963), a combination of comedy and drama, Schlesinger went on to create one of his most acclaimed films, the 1965 British drama ‘Darling,’ which made Julie Christie a celebrity. The picture was a huge success, generating $12 million worldwide. It was nominated for five ‘Academy Awards,’ including one for Schlesinger for Best Director, and went on to win three, including one for Christie for Best Actress. Among other honors and recognitions, it received a ‘Golden Globe Award for Best English-Language Foreign Film’ and four ‘BAFTA’ awards.

The internationally recognized American drama ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ which was released on May 25, 1969, was, however, the most memorable and praiseworthy film of this great director. The picture, which starred Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman and was shot on a $3.2 million budget, was a huge success, generating $44.8 million at the box office.

‘Midnight Cowboy’ won him his well-deserved Academy Award for Best Director, as well as two more awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is one of three X-rated films to be nominated for a ‘Academy Award,’ alongside ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) and ‘Last Tango in Paris’ (1972), and it is the only X-rated picture to win a ‘Oscar’ to date. It also took part in the 19th Berlin International Film Festival and received six ‘BAFTA’ prizes. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the ‘Library of Congress’ in 1994.

‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ (1971), ‘Marathon Man’ (1976), ‘Yanks’ (1979), ‘Madame Sousatzka’ (1988), ‘Pacific Heights’ (1990), and ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ (1991) were among his many significant films (1995).
He directed a party political broadcast for Britain’s ‘Conservative Party’ during the 1992 general election, which included then-Prime Minister John Major.

Personal History and Legacy

He had to have a quadruple heart bypass in 1998.
He experienced a stroke in December of 2000.

On July 24, 2003, he was taken off life support at the ‘Desert Regional Medical Center’ in Palm Springs. On July 25, 2003, he passed away.

Estimated net worth

The estimated net worth of John Schlesinger is unknown.