Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger
William J. Mann. Billboard Books, $27.95 (628pp) ISBN 978-0-8230-8366-4
""There never was anything else,"" British film director John Schlesinger confided about his life's work. Frail and slowed by a stroke in 2000, the subject of this moving, comprehensive and at times dishy biography shared these pearls with Mann just before his death in 2003. A prolific filmmaker and prominent figure of the British ""New Wave,"" Schlesinger was a born director, according to his siblings. He was both iconoclastic-openly gay before it was fashionable or the least bit acceptable-and fortunate enough to begin his career at a time when British cinema was mining the gritty world of the working class. Amid the recollections of swinging London in the '60s and the descriptions of Schlesinger triumphs, such as Darling (1965), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Marathon Man (1976) and Cold Comfort Farm (1996), Mann covers a prolific career that encompassed film, theater and television. (Schlesinger cut his cinematic teeth on BBC programs.) The author also explains with both detachment and empathy Schlesinger's efforts to bring homosexuality to the screen with a kind of eloquence typically only afforded to heterosexual love affairs. Schlesinger did so with Sunday Bloody Sunday, A Kind of Loving and, through subtext, Midnight Cowboy, which won him an Oscar but was summarily trashed by the old Hollywood guard, who feared the continuation of the celebration of sleaze. The trashing certainly didn't harm Schlesinger's social life, however. His home remained a salon for Hollywood's biggest stars, as well as literary legends and infamous party hounds. Mann writes with a tenderness and admiration about a director who only occasionally enjoyed great success but maintained a great talent for exploring human relationships no matter how unconventional or untidy. 30 b&w photos.
Reviewed on: 04/04/2005