1926-02-16

JOHN SCHLESINGER, English film director was born (d. 2003); The great English film director was an unheralded pioneer. His Midnight Cowboy (1969) was kicked to pieces by the critics for being too Gay, and by militant Gays for not being Gay enough. Even Vito Russo, in The Celluloid Closet, pummels the film for daring to present “homosexuals as losers and freaks.” Didn’t anyone bother to read James Leo Herlihy’s book in which everyone, by virtue of living in the 20th century, is a loser and a freak? If Schlesinger got it between the eyes for Midnight Cowboy, his even better film, Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971) was (in America, at least) a box-office bomb.

Who was going to pay good money to see —  ick —  anything as disgusting as two men kissing? A decade later Americans were queuing up around the block to see Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve lock lips in Death Trap and actually applauding the big moment. Poor John Schelsinger. It never pays to be the first kid on the block.

Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass in 1998, before suffering a stroke in December 2000. He was taken off life support at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on July 24, 2003 by his life partner of over thirty years, photographer Michael Childers. Schlesinger died early the following day at the age of 77.