FEB. 16, 1926-JULY 25, 2003

By Steve Daly
Updated December 26, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Farewell: We pay tribute to John Schlesinger

He illumined all manner of lost souls, directing such estimable British flicks as A Kind of Loving and Darling in the early to mid-’60s. Then Schlesinger jumped to Hollywood just as the MPAA launched its ratings system, which meant lots of formerly taboo material was fair game. Though Midnight Cowboy looks tame now, he brought a radical seediness to the 1969 tale of a would-be hustler adrift in then-sleazy Times Square. The film became the only X-rated feature to win a Best Picture Oscar, also earning a statuette for Schlesinger. ”American success is wonderful,” the director told EW in 1995, ”because it’s so tangible.” He kept up his daring, edgy style in subsequent films including Sunday, Bloody Sunday (which featured a landmark man-to-man kiss) and Marathon Man (that brutal dental-torture scene). Anyone who has seen the latter can’t help flinching at the words Is it safe? In his best movies, Schlesinger made sure it wasn’t. (Schlesinger died of stroke complications in Palm Springs, CA.)