John Schlesinger Biography

John Richard Schlesinger, an eminent Academy Award winning English film director, was a pioneer of the new wave of directors in 1960s England. With a modern outlook and fresh perspective, Schlesinger made his mark in the film industry after starting as an actor in the 1950s. His directorial debut, the short documentary ‘Sunday in the Park’, was just the beginning of a successful career that spanned almost four decades. From critically acclaimed films like ‘Darling’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy’ to directing operas and stage plays, Schlesinger’s contributions were recognized with prestigious awards and honors.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In February
  • Also Known As: John Richard Schlesinger
  • Died At Age: 77
  • Family:
    • Father: Bernard Edward Schlesinger
    • Mother: Winifred Henrietta (née Regensburg)
  • Directors
  • Theater Personalities
  • Died on: July 25, 2003
  • Place of death: Palm Springs, California, US
  • City: London, England

Childhood & Early Life

John Schlesinger was born on February 16, 1926, in London, UK, to Bernard Edward Schlesinger and Winifred Henrietta (née Regensburg). He grew up in a middle-class Jewish family and was the eldest son. His parents were both musicians and his father was a paediatrician. They instilled a love for the arts in Schlesinger from a young age. While his father played the cello and his mother played the violin, Schlesinger enjoyed playing the piano.

Although he initially wanted to be an architect, his plans changed when he received a home movie camera as a gift at the age of 10. He became engrossed with his new toy and developed a passion for filmmaking. He attended St Edmund’s School in Hindhead and later Uppingham School in Uppingham, Rutland. During World War II, he served in the Royal Engineers and made an amateur film called “Horrors”. After the war, he enrolled at Balliol College, Oxford University, where he studied English Literature. He became involved with the Undergraduate Dramatic Society and acted in several stage productions. He eventually became the President of the society and traveled with them across America.


After graduating in 1950, Schlesinger made his debut in stage and films in Britain. He was later hired as a freelance documentarian by the BBC. He toured the US, New Zealand, and Australia with theatrical troops in the early 1950s. In the British film industry, he started off with supporting roles in films such as “The Divided Heart” (1954), “Oh… Rosalinda!!” (1955), and “The Battle of the River Plate” (1956). He also appeared in several British TV productions.

In 1956, Schlesinger made his directorial debut with the short documentary “Sunday in the Park”. He was then hired as a director by BBC TV in 1957 and made numerous documentaries for their programs. He also worked as a second unit director and exterior director for various TV series. In the 1960s, he shifted his focus to directing and gave up acting. His documentary “Terminus” (1961) earned him critical acclaim and awards.

Schlesinger gained recognition as a director of mainstream cinema with the release of “A Kind of Loving” (1962), which belonged to the British New Wave movement. His film “Darling” (1965) was a huge success and earned multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for Julie Christie. His most memorable film, “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), won him an Academy Award for Best Director and remains the only X-rated film to win an Oscar.

Throughout his career, Schlesinger directed several notable films, including “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971), “Marathon Man” (1976), and “Cold Comfort Farm” (1995). He also directed a party political broadcast for Britain’s Conservative Party during the 1992 general election.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1998, Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass. In December 2000, he suffered from a stroke and was hospitalized. He remained on life support at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs until it was removed on July 24, 2003. He passed away on July 25, 2003.

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