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A year after winning the Academy Award for directing the iconic Midnight Cowboy, which won the all-important award for best picture and screenplay, John Schlesinger returned to England to make another striking, modernist drama. Just as impressive as Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman were as Joe Buck and Ratso in “Cowboy”, Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch are also great in “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Both Glenda’s divorced accountant in her thirties Alex and Finch’s single middle-aged doctor Daniel are in love with the same person, the young artist Bob (Murray Head). It seems to him that it is completely normal to share time between two partners, while both Alex and Daniel would like something more from Bob, a serious, stable relationship, even though it is obvious to them that this is almost impossible.

And not only are they both aware that Bob is seeing other people, but the two know each other through mutual friends. Afraid of being left without the object of their desire, both Alex and Daniel agree to an arrangement that suits only Bob. And “Sunday Bloody Sunday” earned Schlesinger his third and final Oscar nomination for directing, and Finch and Jackson were nominated for best actor and actress, respectively. And indeed they both carry this modernist drama with great performances about people who are quite similar in character. Both of them obviously have some masochistic urge in them when they allow Bob to treat them like that, and in both of them, as well as the desire to say what they think and want, the fear of being left prevails.

It is interesting that Finch, who received his only Oscar a few years later and posthumously for his marvelous role in Lumet’s “The Network”, was Schlesinger’s first choice from the beginning. However, due to commitments, he had to turn down the role, so Alan Bates was hired, who delayed the filming of the second film, so Ian Bannen stepped in, who eventually gave up because he was afraid that the fact that he had to kiss another man in the film would affect his career so that later whined about how turning down the role was the biggest mistake of his career (who even remembers Ian Bannen these days?!?). While all this was going on, Finch’s schedule was freed up and he jumped into filming, and Schlesinger’s first choice for the role of Alex was Vanessa Redrgave.

But when he saw the great Glenda Jackson in “Women in Love” by Ken Russell, the role that brought her the first of two Oscars, he no longer hesitated. Although today “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is one of those somewhat forgotten films, it is a masterful observation of the British middle class and a slowly changing society. Societies that are slowly transforming from the typical, rigid conservative one into a modern, liberal, civil one. It is an interesting trivia that this is actually the first film in which one of the best actors of all time appeared, the then 13-year-old Daniel Day-Lewis in a small role of a street vandal, and that experience he later described as something divine since he gained two pounds to he scratches the expensive cars parked in front of the church with a sharp object.